Last Tuesday, the 80s new wave group Spandau Ballet rocked the 9:30 Club with a night full of slow jams and funky hits from yesteryear. These pioneers of the New Romantic movement, now in their 50s, played their first-ever D.C. show with an impressive level of energy and charm and showed they can still make a room full of people dance like crazy.
Unlike other classic bands (like The Who, the Rolling Stones and Van Halen), Spandau Ballet has maintained its original lineup of musicians for this year’s global reunion tour. It was clear, too, that they were all still excited about making music —every band member was smiling and moving to the music, and their on-stage dynamic was impressive.
The musicianship was also incredibly impressive. Frontman Tony Hadley’s falsetto is still as strong as ever, and his vocal range is still backed by powerful breath support. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman blew the crowd away with amazing saxophone solos and showcased his conga drum skills as well, while brothers Martin and Gary Kemp impressed on bass and lead guitar.
The set was very well-paced, opening with the mid-tempo “Soul Boy” and building to a burst of faster-paced, funkier dance numbers that got the whole middle-aged crowd bouncing and swaying along. After a rocking, instrumental version of “Glow,” featuring extensive drum solos from John Keeble, the band slowed it down with the sentimental acoustic “Empty Spaces” and a snippet of their hit song “Gold.”
They even played some new songs, including “Steal,” which has been getting significant airplay in America since its 2014 release. The new material fits right into Spandau Ballet’s catalogue, preserving the soft-rock smoothness and dreamy backup vocals of their original work. The unmistakable 80s synth sound and sax solos call back to the classics, with Hadley’s unmistakable voice marking the song as its own.
Spandau Ballet closed the main part of its set with its big hit “True,” and the whole crowd sang along. As an encore, the band members came on one by one as their instruments added into the steady build of “Through the Barricades.” They finished out the show with an energy-packed rendition of “Gold,” then took multiple bows together.
From start to finish, the technical execution of the show was fantastic. The lighting design helped create the tone — like the funky and energetic strobe lights before “Raw” or the soft golden light for the beginning of “Through the Barricades.” The acoustic balance among the microphone levels meant that every instrument was just loud enough, and the blend was perfect. The transitions between songs, including guitar changes, were very smooth, making the show that much more enjoyable.
To cut a long story short, it’s clear that the years have only made these guys better at what they do. Not only can these fifty-somethings still deliver an energetic rock show with skill, but they can still write fantastic songs and keep the New Romantic spirit alive in the 21st century. These old guys have still got it — this much is true.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.