Only when I leave: the return of Spandau Ballet

Arenas get tatty quite quickly (Acer), assuming that they weren’t already tatty in the first place (Rod Laver). I’ve not been in the O2 in London before, but it’s holding up well. The padded seats are a nice bonus. I’m seated centrally towards the back on the floor, waiting to see if the Kemp brothers can impress me as Spandau Ballet return after far too long.

Why pick on Gary and Martin? I saw Hadley/Norman/Keeble back in 2000 or so at the Forum, and it was a great show, so now the challenge is to see if a ticket that cost three times as much delivers a show that’s three times as good. I live in hope, and hope was rewarded.

Tonight’s show is being filmed (the DVD is already being promoted on the advertising screens), so everyone in the crowd gets free glow-in-the-dark wristbands. This is at 2000 hours; the tickets said to arrive at 1830. At 2030, the show kicks off with a filmed overview, the band hits the stage, the crowd rises, and we pretty much stay on our feet for the next two hours.

I’ll say it straight up: this does not come across as a group of men who have resolved their well-documented differences. It comes across as a group that has realised that such a great group of songs deserves an arena setting rather than squabbling. That’ll do me.

Spandau is quintessentially a stadium band, driven by Tony Hadley’s powerhouse vocals (better now than back in the day), Gary Kemp’s exceptional songwriting, the driving rhythm section of Martin Kemp and John Keeble, and the multi-instrumental charisma of Steve Norman, who still looks the happiest on stage. Steve and Martin got the most screams, though there were plenty for everyone. And there’s nary a dud song in the set, which was grouped largely by album.

The legal battles in the band were obliquely addressed when Tony and Gary performed an acoustic version of ‘With The Pride’. “Who would have thought? Me and the big man,” Kemp commented. This was the one song everyone sat back down for, barring four selfish fat cows near me, though they eventually came to their senses.

Pretty much every song you’d expect was present, save for ‘Musclebound’. Staging highlights included some ancient home video footage for ‘Round And Round’ (more screaming as the boys paraded in Speedos), some Frankie-style graphics for ‘Fight For Ourselves’, an everything but the kitchen sink version of ‘Through The Barricades’, and the inevitable backdrop of stars for ‘True’. Clearly, I’ll have to buy the DVD; these dodgy pics are hardly a souvenir!

Set list:

  • To Cut A Long Story Short
  • The Freeze
  • Highly Strung
  • Only When You Leave
  • I’ll Fly For You
  • How Many Lies
  • We Are Virgin
  • She Loved Like Diamond
  • Once More
  • Round And Round
  • Man In Chains
  • With The Pride
  • Through The Barricades
  • Instinction
  • Communication
  • Lifeline
  • Chant #1/Paint Me Down
  • True (with artificial encore break afterwards)
  • Fight For Ourselves
  • Gold
  • One thought on “Only when I leave: the return of Spandau Ballet

    1. Great review, good photos but i have to disagree on the vocals. I found tony’s Voice unstable and he hit a lot of bad notes. So did Steve. You can tell they haven’t been playing such s big venue in ages! I last saw them in Italy in the late 80s, then saw Hadley solo in Camden 10 years ago. Really enjoyed myself tonight but after seeing The Cult two days ago, who at the same age were magnificent, flawless and full if energy I couldn’t help but feeling somewhat disappointed.

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