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Review: Spandau Ballet at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

30 years on from their heyday, Spandau Ballet finally win over our reviewer Graeme Whitfield

****

If you had told me, 25 years on, that I would be spending two hours on watching Spandau Ballet, I would have begged to differ.

While the rest of the world was buying their records, I gravitated instead to spikey young men who wanted to change the world with protest songs and loud guitars. Spandau Ballet, by contrast, were symbolic of everything that made the ‘80s the decade that music forgot, all moneypit videos, dressing up like pirates and - ugh - saxophone solos.

And yet, a quarter of a century on, the time might just have come to admit that Spandau Ballet are - whisper it - canny good.

Proceedings kick off with a song called Soulboys of the Western World, the title alone suggesting that Spandau Ballet will be no friends to either self-doubt or self-awareness. Yet it also signals the tone for the rest of the night by being a nifty little tune that kicks into a string of ‘80s hit singles.

It is all rather winning.

There is something, for example, that is hard to resist about singer Tony Hadley, a man who could not be cheesier if he were a six-foot block of stilton, but who exudes utter enthusiasm for his job with each song he bellows at us. Steadfastly refusing to undo the button on his jacket, Hadley gets increasingly red in the face, but is clearly a man who thinks that being in a pop group is jolly good fun.

And well he might, for Spandau Ballet are really a canny good pop group. They have power ballads that make middle-aged women sway and dancey songs that make middle-aged women jump about, while Gary Kemp, all Chic guitar licks and rock star poses, has a back catalogue that most musicians would kill for.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all plain sailing. 45 minutes in, they do a medley of songs from their before-they-were famous first album that is aimed either at their ageing audience’s sense of nostalgia or, more likely, their declining bladder control, so mad is the rush for the toilets. Not long afterwards, there is a bongo solo.

But these are rare misjudged moments in a night that is, generally, darn entertaining. Nostalgic videos of the band as young men play during Round and Round to remind the audience of their youth, Hadley and Kemp appear at the back of the Arena to sing an abbreviated, acoustic version of Gold and when Hadley says “Let’s sing some hits”, he really means it.

With utter inevitability (but welcome nonetheless), they wind up the main set with True and melt everyone’s hearts. Then they come back for an encore of Through the Barricades (starts off lovely, gets a bit overblown, just about pulls it off) and a full-band version of Gold to send everyone away happy.

None more so that the band themselves, who hug each other like it is the gig of their lives. “Finally,” I can sense them thinking, “we’ve won over that bloke from The Journal.”

And they have.

Spandau Ballet are not going to change anyone’s world, but can they provide an entertaining two hours on a Sunday night?

That much is true.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer