September 22, 2015
Spandau Ballet was one of the famous British bands from the 1980s who are only coming to Manila for the very first time in their career. Their contemporaries Duran Duran and Tears for Fears have both come twice already with full house concerts. The excitement for this SB concert was very high among those around the 50-year old age group who grew up with their music. There was additional excitement because this was the first tour of the group in 30 years with all the original band members: Tony Hadley (lead vocals), Gary Kemp (lead guitar), Steve Norman (saxophone, guitar, percussion), Martin Kemp (bass guitar) and John Keeble (drums). (* Tony Hadley though had a solo gig at the Solaire last year.)
The show started promptly at 8 am when front act, Per Sorensen, casually stepped out on the stage with his co-keyboardist. He still has the range, but the voice quality itself is a bit rough already, probably with age. His keyboard skills were still undeniable. He had a thirty minute set, where he sang some of his former band Fra Lippo Lippi's biggest hits, like "Angel," "Beauty and Madness," "Everytime I See You," and "Light and Shade".
He seemed frustrated that more people were not singing along as much as he was expecting them to, like in their concerts here during their prime (both of which I actually got to watch). Maybe next time he should flash the lyrics on the screen so the audience could sing along easily. He also sang a couple of songs from the "Songs" album to open and close his set -- "Even the Tall Trees Bend" and "Crash of Light" -- which he claims he had not sung in 30 years. The set was a bit too laid back to be truly exciting, but the 80s nostalgia was definitely stoked in preparation for the main act we came here for.
After a 20-minute break, the lights dimmed down again by 9 pm. The screaming was there, but not as loud as I was expecting, The first song was "Soul Boy", which was where the title of their reunion tour ("Soul Boys of the Western World Tour") came from. Then they immediately shifted to high gear with three consecutive big hits: "Highly Strung," "Only When You Leave" (VIDEO) and my personal favorite "Round and Round." From the very first song, we all noticed how the voice of lead vocalist Tony Hadley did not show signs of age at all. His vocal instrument was as smooth and as effortless on the high notes as we remember it to be.
As they usually do in concerts, the act does new material. SB did a couple, entitled "This Is the Love" and "Steal" which were both very good. "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" was next. Then they went through a very long series of barely familiar songs like a medley of "Reformation" / "Mandolin" / "Confused" / "The Freeze," "To Cut a Long Story Short" (the band's 1980 debut single in the UK) and a percussion instrumental called "Glow." These were good songs, but the audience was antsy for the big hits.
Suddenly, Tony Hadley and Gary Kemp reappeared on a smaller stage behind the Patron section to the surprise of the audience. There they sang a couple of songs in acapella. The first was a melodious song called "Empty Spaces". Then he began to sing their big hit "Gold" which woke the audience back to life again. Unfortunately, it was just an abbreviated version that undoubtedly kept the audience wanting.
Tony and Gary made their way back to the stage singing "Once More" (a comeback single released in 2009) Then after that, they sang a slowed-down extended version of "I'll Fly for You" (VIDEO). This was followed by a couple of early hits "Instinction" and "Communication." The audience got excited again when they sang "Lifeline."
At this point Tony had brought some Jack Daniels with him on the stage as he introduced the members of the band. It turns out John Keeble was not able to make the trip and they had a replacement drummer for this leg of the tour. Steve Norman carelessly let go of a couple of "F" words when he introduced Tony.
The audience excitement further grew with the next song, their only Top 10 hit in the US (#4 on the Billboard Hot 100), "True." However, that would be the last song of their main set. They bade their goodbyes and left the stage after that, but the crowd clamored for more.
For their encore, they first sang a most moving version of "Through the Barricades" which fully showcased Tony's amazing vocal range, unsullied by age (and alcohol). Their grand finale was the complete version of "Gold." This was a high-energy final song which ended the show in very high-spirits.
Honestly, while this concert was good, but it did not exactly reach the high bar set by the Duran Duran and Tears for Fears concerts before it. Despite the fact that the General Admission section was not opened at al, the MOA Arena was still not a total full house last night, as there were several empty sections in the Upper Box.
Years before, concerts with foreign musical acts like this were huge special events fans really looked forward to. But now with all these foreign concerts coming in almost every week, is the Filipino audience already experiencing some kind of concert fatigue? Hope not. I'd still like to see these stars perform their music here for us.