May 18, 2015 Spandau Ballet outstanding NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 5-3-15
Back in the 1980s, a second British Invasion overtook the music scene with an inventive brand of New Wave bands. Headed by bands like Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Duran Duran, one of the most successful acts to come from the scene was Spandau Ballet. Forming originally back in 1976 under the name Cut, with Gary Kemp and Steve Norman on guitar, the band went through a variety of changes including renaming themselves The Makers that same year, and Gentry in 1978. Finally setting in on their style and sound, Spandau Ballet was born thereafter, and the rest is history. Attaining a gold selling record in the UK with their 1981 debut, Journey to Glory, the band would go on to have ten UK Top 10 hit singles in a eight year span to follow. Seemingly breaking up after the release of 1989’s Heart Like a Sky, many had thought that was the last they had heard of Spandau Ballet until two decades later when they reunited and released the Once More album full of re-recorded back catalgoue tracks, as well a couple of new pieces.
Now consisting of their classic line-up of Tony Hadley on lead vocals/synthesizers, Gary Kemp on lead guitar/keyboards, Norman on saxophone/guitar/percussion, Martin Kemp on bass, and John Keeble on drums, Spandau Ballet are as strong as ever. While Europe has been treated to the resurrected band for various live performances, North America patiently waited for their turn to see the band again. In fact, they have waited thirty-two years, and finally in 2015, Spandau Ballet embarked on a North American tour with a swarm of excitement around them. Striking up interest in the year prior with the release of their documentary film Soul Boys of the Western World, the 2015 tour came to NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY on Sunday May 3rd with a packed house on hand. Initially scheduled for back in March, the re-scheduled date saw many come from across the globe, ready for their fix of Spandau Ballet.
Without an opening act, Spandau Ballet had plenty of time on their hands, and they would need it with a lot of ground to cover after their long absence. Coming out with the lights shining bright, they kicked off the set with new song “Soul Boy.” Showing off an energy which would pour out of them all night long, Hadley stood front and center, belting out notes with ease. Taking the audience back to 1984, “Highly Strung” came before another Parade hit, “Only When You Leave.” The Jazz-like textures of Hadley’s voice matched by the irresistible bass of Martin was complemented by Gary’s guitar work and Norman’s sax playing. With everyone dancing and singing along, Spandau Ballet relaxed the mood with a changeover into 1987’s “How Many Lies” before 1984’s “Round and Round.”
Moving into their newer material, they kept the tranquil mood flowing with “This Is the Love” and “Steal” before oldie “Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On).” Proving they still have the knack for crafting highly romantic and beautiful songs, the new work fit perfectly in the midst of Spandau Ballet’s vast history. Speaking of history, the next portion of the show would get everyone back up dancing when they rocketed through an amazing medley of their defining early tunes “Age of Blows,” “Reformation,” “Mandolin,” “Confused,” and “The Freeze.” Mixing the best sounds of Synth with amicable live drumming by Keeble and guitar work by Gary, the band transitioned seamlessly between each song. Gracious for the audience’s overwhelming positive response to each and every song they performed, Hadley expressed great pleasure to be back in North America, and each member of the band were nothing by smiles all set long. Keeping the high-octane party vibe going, their debut single, “To Cut a Long Story Short,” had the room rocking at a heightened level as they went into “Raw” and “Glow” where Norman’s multi-instrumental talents were on full display as he kept the beat going on the hand drums.
Giving everyone a chance to catch their breath from the non-stop dancing, the affectionate 1989 cut “Empty Spaces” was performed acoustically with luscious mix of keyboards, sax, and of course the distinctive powerful vocals of Hadley, had all mesmerized. Offering up a brief, yet welcomed, rendition of “Gold,” with Gary on double-necked acoustic guitar, Hadley had everyone singing along and cheering for more. Acting as a teaser, the fans did not mind as the band continued to bring on a balance of tunes with “Once More” before the atmospheric Jazz Rock hit “I’ll Fly for You.” Taking the audience back to 1982, a trifecta of fan-favorites began with bass throbbing “Instinction,” then “Communication,” and last the uplifting tones of “Lifeline.” With so many areas of the band’s career already covered, the time had come for their biggest North American mainstream hit, decade defining track, “True.” Reaching deep down to bring the song to life, Hadley matched the intensity of the notes with vocal inflection that was real and on point. Enticing the audience to join in, a sea of voices filled the air, making for a magical moment in an already flawless performance. As applauds rained down, no one was ready to bid farewell to Spandau Ballet, and thankfully the band had a couple of more treats to come. Beginning the finale with acoustic based “Through the Barricades,” a full blown electric version of “Gold” had everyone up again, dancing and singing until the final guitar note. Taking the time to cherish the moment, each member of the band embraced and thanked the audience for what was an unforgettable night.
Spandau Ballet’s return was long overdue, but it was a wait worth holding out for. Their catalogue of music is riddled with unmistakable tunes, and their ability to mirror the studio recordings live was simply unbelievable. With immense amounts of energy, they gave each song the passion it deserved, and then some. Each member of the band shined equally with magnificent instrumental talent and invigorating stage presence. With promises of a full-length album filled with new songs in the near future, fans now hope the band will be back sometime again in the near future. There is a reason Spandau Ballet is regarded as a band which invented a decade, and their iconic status finally gets to be recognized on a more grand scale with this epic return to the United States.