Tag Archives: Steve Norman

Through the Barricades – Spandau Ballet at Pacific Amphitheater

Last night I joined about 8,000 of my newest friends to see Spandau Ballet in concert at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, California. I don’t want to brag (actually I do), but Spandau says that it was one of the best if not the best amphitheater show they’ve done.

First of all, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to this venue, and they’ve completely improved the gates leading from inside the fair. What once felt like a back alley was open and inviting, which is nice. The amphitheater has it’s own set of unique problems though, some of which are that it’s attached to a fairground, not permitted to run year-round, and there’s some nasty rules about noise, curfews and horrific fines if a band should happen to go past their time-limit.  Even so, I love it when bands play here…especially when those bands are named Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears, or Duran Duran.

I recently saw Spandau (by recently I mean earlier this year and you can find my review here), for a show at the Wiltern Theatre in LA and it was fantastic, far exceeding any expectations I may have had. I was a fan who had never seen them live, and I still can’t quite believe my luck at having them play twice in a single year. From what I could gather between the LA show and last night – they have an amazing, fun-loving, and supportive fan base, and it’s a shame it had gone thirty years (according to Tony Hadley, whom I’m assuming knows these things) since their last show in the OC, otherwise known as my backyard.  So, I was curious to see how their shows might differ, especially after long months of touring. Would fatigue get the best of them? Would their music feel a bit tired, or polished?

Once again, Spandau blew me away. In retrospect, the show in LA felt almost a bit stiff compared to the warm, friendly and loving nature of the show last night. While the band certainly interacted in LA, it couldn’t even compare to having Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp decide to literally go play Empty Spaces in the audience….only to follow that up with a brief sing-a-long a cappella version of Gold before going back up to the main stage. We were treated to Steve Norman getting right down to nearly eye-level as he played sax with those in the front rows, quite possibly giving Krista Blade (Richard Blade’s – the KROQ radio DJ and 80’s music guru wife) the show of her life.  Martin and Gary Kemp traded sides of the stage several times throughout the show as well. But it wasn’t just those moments that made the show feel special or intimate. Tony Hadley commented not just once, but several times as to how great the audience was; and I have to say – in all of my years of attending shows, I have NEVER heard an audience sing in quite the same way as we did last night. We sang along to Gold and of course True…and no matter where Tony would hand off the singing of a line to the crowd, it was picked up and beautifully finished with enthusiasm. I think in a lot of ways, True is sort of Spandau’s Hungry Like the Wolf, and rather than the song being tired or boring, which let’s face it – by this time is absolutely a possibility; the band has worked to give it new life and make it something that the fans can sing together with the band as sort of a sentimental moment. It worked beautifully.

The crowd was willing, open, warm…and even had a few self-named superfans present. One such person was in the front row. I noticed him throughout the show because he knew every word to every song, which made me smile. He danced and sang right along with the band, and reminded me of the time someone announced to Amanda and I that they’d never seen more enthusiastic fans at a show. (I don’t really want to know what we must have looked like that night….) In any case, the band went offstage from their main set at precisely 10:01 by my watch, and came back out to do “Through the Barricades”, which has got to be the most romantic song ever written (and I adore Steve Norman’s sax on this one). It was about this time that I glanced down to the front row and noticed that the guy I’d seen earlier was wearing some sort of, well…hat and feather get-up. It was canary yellow…which I’m assuming he wore because he was insistently hoping that the band finished with “Gold”.  They did…but not before Tony Hadley had to turn away from said superfan because he was laughing and couldn’t sing. I have to give the guy credit, he wore that little number (and I’m sorry I don’t have pictures – I was too busy enjoying the song!!) for the entire song, and then the band literally pulled him onstage during their goodbyes as Steve Norman carried him…yes CARRIED him in his arms.

  1. Spandau Ballet loves their fans. A LOT…and they’re definitely not too cool to show it.

  2. Steve Norman can carry a full-sized man. So my hope of someday having him show up and carry me away is still on!!!  😉

  3. I don’t suppose my showing up in a wolf-suit to a Duran Duran concert is really going to help anything…so no one need worry.

  4. I wish I’d bought tickets to see them in San Diego tonight.

  5. It’s not REALLY cheating on Duran Duran. It’s training for the next tour…I swear!!

One last thing: prior to the show, Richard Blade did a DJ set with his buddy (and Duran Duran fan), Steven Wayne.  Steven actually played the songs, and Richard always likes to do the trivia and contests.  The coolest part of his set before the show was when he dramatically said a line from When In Rome’s song “The Promise” (the point was to guess what song the line was from), and Clive Farrington, the lead singer of When in Rome, was planted in the audience with a microphone. He came down on the stage and actually SANG the song. Gotta tell ya, When in Rome was another favorite band of mine from way back when, and I nearly fell out of my chair when literally he rose up from his chair to go sing RIGHT DOWN THE AISLE from me.  He still sings with stunning beauty, and I can cross one more thing off of my lengthy bucket list.  I felt bad for him because people continually stopped him throughout the show for pictures, but I didn’t need any….the memory of having him sing is going to stick with me for a long, long time. Loved it.

 

Spandau Ballet Wiltern Theatre

I went to see Spandau Ballet at the Wiltern Theatre in LA last night. Yes, I realize this is the Daily Duranie and maybe one of the last things many of you want to read is a review on another band’s live performance.  You should probably look away….but not you, Duran Duran. No, you four…FIVE (!)…should probably read on. (I am never giving in on Dom being a member, by the way. Suck it up.)

The reason I’m writing a show review about Spandau Ballet, is because for many DD fans, the supposed rivalry between SB and DD never existed. I hadn’t heard of it until I saw a YouTube video of Spandau vs. Duran on Pop Quiz.  (Check them out if you haven’t seen them – they’re funny!!) I just loved both bands for very different reasons. My love for Spandau Ballet did not; however, begin with “True” – as it did for many other American fans. I had heard their music well before that – for me, the very essence of Spandau Ballet is “To Cut a Long Story Short”,  or “Instinction” or better yet, “Confused”.  When I listen to those songs even today – the bridge between Spandau and Duran feels solid and I can see why I love both bands.  So to me, writing about other bands that were very much a part of that time period feels natural…and damn it, if Duran Duran isn’t gonna give me anything to write about, someone else will!

When I got to the Wiltern last night just after 7pm, I was dismayed to see that the line stretched all the way around the building and down the block. This wasn’t a GA show, it was completely seated, and the only reason for the line was a lack in security people to check bags. Ridiculous, but thankfully the line moved fairly quickly. Once in the venue though, we made our way up to our loge seats. I chose loge rather than floor because while I’m sure it would have been great to be up front, I really wanted to hear the full mix of the show. I will openly admit that for me, the experience of seeing Duran Duran live has everything to do with the rush of being near the front…but for Spandau Ballet, and knowing that I probably would not have the opportunity to see them live again (hey, it’s been 30 years since they’ve toured here), I wanted to HEAR the music without my brain playing tricks on me because I was in front of Martin Kemp or seeing Steve Norman play sax in front of me. Just saying.  (Still love you, Duran Duran, but seriously – it’s been a long time!)

Our seats were fantastic with a great view of the full stage, and bonus: the Wiltern takes drink orders from your seat! We settled in, watched Richard Blade give away tickets to see Rio and a couple of other far less interesting events (yes, I really mean that – unless you’re into Morrissey, which I am not.), and waited for the show.

The band opened with Soul Boy – a new song off of their The Story, and from the opening notes it was really clear that this was not going to be an ordinary concert for me. I won’t lie or pretend I never notice backing tracks with other artists. I am very clear that for many bands today – they must have them because they record with so many tracks for each instrument, it’s impossible to replicate live. That said, I have to give Spandau credit: they are the real deal. They PLAY…and any backing used is incredibly minimal compared to many other bands. Tony Hadley has a better voice live than nearly any vocalist I’ve ever heard, and I’m sure the Jack he used for toasting the audience does nothing to hurt him, either.  I can’t really say enough about Tony’s vocal talent OR the rest of the band. Steve Norman is a sax GOD, not to mention a world-class percussionist, of course Gary and Martin Kemp are the backbone of the band along with John Keeble on drums.  After sorting through a lot of misinformation, I’m editing this blog to update that the keyboardist’s name on this tour is Toby Chapman, and he did a fantastic job last night as well.  While in my opinion Spandau comes on stage with a lot less “flash” than say…Duran Duran…they more than make up for it with incredibly solid performance, and I still can’t get over Tony Hadley’s voice. He is amazing.

My moment of the night was hearing “To Cut a Long Story Short” – which is my favorite Spandau song. I marveled at how I was standing there, at a Spandau Ballet concert – something I just never, EVER thought I would do. I had many of the same feelings surging through my veins as I did when I saw Duran Duran – The “Original” Fab Five – at the OC Fair back in 2003. I couldn’t quite make my eyes believe what my ears were hearing. I am kicking myself this morning for not taking video, but in a lot of ways I’m glad I didn’t. I took the moment for myself and soaked it in, feeling that concert rush course through my system. I’d forgotten what it was like.

This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make some commentary on the Spandau Ballet fans – many of which had been waiting thirty years to see this band. I loved being up in the balcony because I was able to see the reaction from fans – diehard Spandau Ballet fans – as they heard songs that they probably never thought they’d see done live. There was something really heartwarming as I watched fans scream with glee as Tony broke into Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) or the way the entire audience sang “True” with the band. There were so many special moments about the show I can’t even begin to name them all…and that’s just during the show.  As we waited in line outside that night, I halfway listened as the people in back of us talked about the trek they were making to follow the band on their tour across the country, and how they talked about members of the band as though they were old friends. It reminded me so much of the “relationship” Duran fans have with the band. As much as we might be different – Spandau fans and Duran fans – we’re really the same. (and quite honestly, there were quite a few Spandau fans that I recognized from Duran shows over the years!)

As I sit here, trying to formulate sentences to describe my experience, the one feeling I really want to convey is just how much the Spandau Ballet show reminded me of what I love most about going to concerts. I think I’d forgotten that concert rush – that concert high, a high I caught even while sitting in loge seats rather than in the first few rows down front.  I had forgotten just how much I love seeing bands live and fully immersing myself into the music. Hearing every single note from a sax solo. Feeling the bass drum beat, clapping my hands in rhythm and singing as loud as my voice can manage. Squealing in joy as the band plays another song through to perfection, and yes – even watching the band acknowledge fans who have loved them for thirty years. How can I honestly say I would be OK to never feel any of that again?

I can’t.

-R