An edited version of this review originally appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post.
Despite his many visits to the Royal Concert Hall over the years, few in last night’s audience appeared to recognise OMD keyboardist Paul Humphreys, now performing with Propaganda’s Claudia Brücken as part of Onetwo. Despite some initial nervousness (1), their brooding, dramatic synthpop was politely received, (2) with the warmest applause reserved for the instantly recognisable Propaganda classic Duel. (3)
Although they have never won the critical acclaim of fellow Eighties survivors the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure have achieved a similar level of success, on their own terms, without ever bending to musical fashions. You can always spot an Erasure song – but you might struggle to guess the decade in which it was recorded.
For this reason, the duo – Andy Bell as enthusiastic as ever on vocals, Vince Clarke as impassive as ever on keyboards – can easily switch between old and new material on stage, without anyone noticing the join. The new songs may not sell quite as well as they used to, but last night’s capacity crowd lapped them up as readily as the old hits. Opening the set, recent single Sunday Girl (no, not the Blondie number) got all three tiers on their feet, where they remained throughout. (4) Not even the Pet Shop Boys managed that, when they played here in June.
But then, Erasure have always been more Pop than Art, and they’ve never been above letting their audience know that they’re having fun too: the three impeccably glamorous backing singers struggled to keep straight faces during Chains Of Love, and Andy performed old favourite Oh L’Amour as a duet with a fake fur stole called “Mint Sauce”. For beneath all the costumes and camp (paint-splattered suits, ridiculous Andy Warhol wigs, army fatigue cocktail dresses), there lies an unassuming generosity of spirit, which welcomes everyone to Erasure’s party. Long may they party on.
(Photo by Sarah)
(1) …which surprised me, as I was expecting an assured, ice-maidenly, This Is Art Darleenks performance from La Brücken, who seemed somewhat uncomfortable in her own skin. But then the minimal staging didn’t help, with the three performers merely plonked in a static row in front of a black curtain. Arty synthpop needs visuals, donthca know?
(2) …at least, by those who didn’t start chattering amongst themselves or slipping out to the bar. Nevertheless, album sales during the interval were brisk; I bought a copy for myself, and they were flying off the shelf at the rate of two or three per minute.
(3) …whereas my warmest applause was reserved for their cover of The Associates’ Club Country, played in memory of the late Billy Mackenzie, who would have been fifty this year.
(4) …as those of us on the front row could clearly see, if we turned around. For by a remarkable stroke of good fortune, I was approached during the interval by a nice lady (a very nice lady; she’d read my interview and everything!) who asked me whether I was on my own, as she and her husband had a spare ticket for the middle of the front row.
As my pair of perfectly decent press tickets were therefore suddenly going begging, I quickly dragged Sarah and Lord Bargain down from the vertigo-inducing second tier, and passed the tickets on. A significant result all round, which more than compensated for the earlier frustration of failing to offload the spare press ticket on any of my friends.
And let me tell you: front row seats at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall are a trip and a half. With no security staff to get in the way, you’re mere inches away from the stage itself, which is roughly at chest height (if you’re tall like me), and hence so close that you practically feel like you’re part of the show (if you’re egotistical like me). The sound quality’s not so great, as you’re practically behind the main speakers, but the compensations are considerable.
(That Andy Bell, he couldn’t keep his eyes off me. I sense a connection.)