For two decades now Vince Clarke and Andy Bell have shown that live electronic pop need not be boring. Tonight’s show was a case in point. An impressively lit and elaborate set of floor-to-ceiling trees and tin foil islands provided a grand backdrop to the performers’ costumes – these being the kind of garments that suggest cabaret drag acts. Even leaving all this aside, Andy Bell is as energetically charasmatic a front man as they come – and, what’s more, he’s always had that great voice. It doesn’t matter that Clarke scarcely moves.
The duo have been around long enough now to have attracted a complete cross section of ages and styles to their gigs. The audience at the Apollo ranged from children to grannies and included young ladies and middle-aged men. All were assembled to see Erasure’s first London appearance since Bell revealed to the world that he’s had two hip replacements and an HIV+ diagnosis.
Such medical hurdles might have slowed down lesser performers, but Bell showed no sign of trouble in a gig that showcased new album Nightbird and plenty of crowd-pleasing hits from their extensive back catalogue of hits.
Bell, flanked by two girls in fairy costumes, began the evening sporting angelic wings – “I had a Red Bull earlier,” cracked the singer – and gradually disrobed, via a spangly silver suit, to sequined blue underwear. Bell is of course no spring chicken and won’t be worrying Scissor Sisters front man Jake Shears in the totty stakes, but his confidence made up for the passing of time as he peacocked around what was assuredly his stage. Clarke, ever the poker-faced synth guru, stayed unobtrusively towards the back, letting Bell get on with dominating the show.
In the Eighties, Erasure regularly hit the top five of the singles chart. Thirtysomethings joyously relived a soundtrack to their schooldays with Ship of Fools, Blue Savannah, A Little Respect, Oh L’Amour, Love To Hate You and Stop, all of which anthems have stood the test of time.
Children, meanwhile, sang enthusiastically along to this year’s top five mid-tempo hit Breathe. It was one of several notable Nightbird tracks. All This Time Still Falling Out Of Love sounded as anthemic as anything this most successful pairing have released, and new single Don’t Say You Love Me also stood up well to the live test, showing that Clarke has lost none of his ability to pen a classic pop tune, even if the tempo seems to have markedly slowed of late. He’s been churning out classics since his days in Yazoo and Depeche Mode of course.
The loveliest moment of the gig came from the audience, singing A Little Respect a capella. Younger audience members familiar with the Wheatus cover version knew the words too. Elsewhere, patient queues formed at the bars, everyone singing along – Erasure fans don’t do impolite.
Appropriately enough, their earliest big hit, Sometimes, closed the gig to rousing effect, completed with a distinctly stagey ensemble bow as the audience cheered wildly. The vast interior of the Apollo for once felt intimate. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke had had a ball.