In the ’80s Erasure’s none-too-subtle dynamic between mechanised instrumentation and sweaty emotional vocals marked them out. In Andy Bell they had a singer as powerful as he was original, and Vince Clarke provided strong melodies, inventive arrangements, and infectious dance rhythms. I was keen to see if these qualities could still shine through live in the Naughties.
Waiting for the boys to appear I took in the stage-set – a Victorian drawing room with flock wallpaper, doors, oriental screen, desk, pot plant, chaise longue and, spotlighted, a wind-up gramophone with snaking trumpet. Then the lights dimmed and a woman, dressed in a heavy black Victorian dress and top-hat, toddled over to the gramophone, and wound it and the audience up. It was the cheeky lad Andy himself.
While Vince Clarke, also top-hatted, shied away to the side amidst his consoles, Andy Bell took centre stage. He tilted his hat and head coyly, and launched into Ship Of Fools – such prickly poetry and the start of a visual and aural feast.
Through a mix of, as Andy said, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”, he tripped and stripped and strutted. This totally strange, brown leather-corseted and red high-booted spinning top of glistening gay muscle so enthralled the packed audience that the clichd thought went through my head, “If Pop was any better than this it would just about kill you.”
The borrowed material taken from their current album Other People’s Songs helped to focus the set. Peter Gabriel‘s Solsbury Hill sounded as if it was made for Erasure and Elvis‘ Can’t Help Falling In Love was superb. Their version of the Righteous Brothers‘ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling was less convincing – it was plodding and, not for the first time, the pre-programmed track was tending towards the harsh.
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling followed a break in which the overhead screen (the picture frame on the drawing room wall) featured an eerie cartoon with crows tormenting a figure lost in the wilderness. Andy and Vince changed into whiter-than-white suits and luminous yellow vests and the two backing singers (the only other accompaniment, apart from technology) wore matching luminous yellow bobby socks.
If the borrowed songs gave the show focus then the energised old ones (Chains Of Love, Victims of Love, Blue Savannah Song, Sometimes, Stop, etc) propelled it all towards the highly deserved climactic encore – A Little Respect. But more than a little respect is deserved for this gig. I smiled broadly all through the 100 minute show as feet vibrated and heart leapt – so lots of love and respect to the two lads.