The last time we wrote about a concert we went to we received a fairly nasty comment that we shouldn’t be writing about a George Michael concert because it had nothing to do with coffee. True! Which brings me to my next concert review Spandau Ballet (Sydney Entertainment Centre, April 23, 2010).

When tickets went on sale many months ago, I did a double take for two reasons:

[1] Weren’t Spandau Ballet estranged and hadn’t they been that way for 20 years?

[2] Supported by Tears for Fears! (hey, we would have paid top dollar just to see them!).

A quick Google search revealed that in fact Spandau Ballet had reformed. Fences had been mended and the boys were getting back together and even making a new album. It was big news and it meant that the tickets were going to go fast. I quickly got on the blower to a mate of mine and asked whether he wanted to come and unfortunately this 5-minute distraction meant that we went from having floor seats to side seats.

I got on Twitter during the week when they played in Melbourne and did a subject search of both “Spandau Ballet” and “Tears for Fears”. I hadn’t done this before but it proved to me that this was Twitter’s real power. Sure the internet meant I could have read a review in The Age but I would have had to have waited until the next morning and it probably would have been written by some journo with no connection to either band or the 80’s. (My connection to Spandau Ballet dates back to Year 7 poetry in 1984 where our teacher Mr Maskey had us study the lyrics to Gold).Twitter however gave me numerous snippets from real people who were actually experiencing it live.  The reason I did this was that the week before I had watched some appalling You Tubes of Whitney Houston trying to sing at her recent concerts and had been spooked by them and wondered whether such 80’s icons as Tears for Fears and Spandau Ballet were going to be similarly way past their prime. Fortunately, the “live” Tweets coming out of Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne spoke of mesmorising performances, big voices and superb showmanship. I contacted Dave to say we were going to be in for a great night and he said he never doubted it.

I did not get into Tears for Fears in earnest until this decade and through talking to a few other people my age lately, I realised I was not the only one to recently discover what a brilliant band they are. What makes a brilliant band? For me, it is the characteristic voice of the lead singer, the depth of instrumental backing and the catchy tunes. In the case of Tears for Fears, these tunes just happened to turn into iconic tunes. I would challenge any adult around today who was a kid in the 1980’s who didn’t admit to singing Shout (shout, let it all out) and Everybody Wants to Rule the World in the back of the school bus on excursions or have it blaring from their Sony Walkman on the way back from school. Throw in Woman in Chains, Mad World and Sowing The Seeds of Love and you have a rock concert, baby! – where a standing ovation at the end of the set is guaranteed.

Spandau Ballet opened their 2-hour set with a montage of old footage projected onto a massive silk screen that lifted at the end to reveal Tony Hadley, Martin and Gary Kemp, Steve Norman and John Keeble – all frozen – as if on the cover of one of their 80’s albums. Their first tune, Cut a Long Story Short (I Lost My Mind) set the pace and proved Tony Hadley still has one of the biggest, booming voices going around. Like the voices of Roland and Curt from Tears for Fears, Tony’s is intensely characteristic. Just a few bars of the first song took me right back to an orchestra camp I went on in 1985 and a school dance around the same time. It sent shivers up my spine, actually! His vocal range really shocked me because I saw Tony Hadley performing live in a night club in Singapore in about 1998. It was an intimate affair, a “nostalgia” concert with no backup vocals, no instruments, very few stage lights and, to be honest, very little atmosphere. And there was Tony, clutching a glass of wine throughout, chain smoking cigarettes and going through the motions with his karaoke backup tape playing behind him. His voice was great then I have to say, but I wondered whether 12 years down the track it would be still be good given the smokes and wine. Believe me, it was!

All of the band members were great (could John Keeble play any harder or bash any more percussion instruments than he did? Could Martin and Gary Kemp strum those guitars or smile any more than they did?) but one of the true inspirations to come from the night was Steve Norman’s saxophone playing. In a word, brilliant! Spandau Ballet’s songs are littered with beautiful sax solos and for two hours, he delivered them with such energy and enthusiasm. (Incidentally, Steve also played percussion and guitar and is obviously a musical prodigy.)

The hits belted out with an energy that was contagious. These guys were really enjoying the reunion and the fact that they could sell out massive venues 25-30 years on. The highlight of the night was Through the Barricades. Any Australian Idol kids wanting lessons on how to build a song (isn’t that what the judges keep going on about?) should have been watching this. It was just amazing. Chant No.1 (Don’t Need This Pressure On), Lifeline, Round and Round, Only When You Leave, She Loved Like Diamond and the bare-bones version of With the Pride were all fantastic as was their new single, Once More. Their encore performance of Gold rocked the house and left everyone on their feet begging for more.

Dave and I agreed that this was definitely one of the best concerts we have ever been to. I will leave this blog post with a comment on coffee just in case my aforementioned complainant reads this…..

When I got home I had a coffee.

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