After the disappointment of the last minute, opening-night concert postponement in January, I was keeping my expectations realistic. If the truth be told I was expecting a cancellation. A band like Erasure which is on a multi-date tour, and a venue like the Olympia, which is consistently busy, must both schedule their events with the precision of an obsessive-compulsive homing pigeon. A three night stint of gigs isn’t so easy to reschedule. In a worst case scenario you’ll be left in a Red Hot Chili Peppers situation where your night out will switch from the opening night show, to the closing night show almost a year later.
I went along anyway with my hopes firmly under control. It had been a last minute opportunity to see them to begin (as their concerts had sold out I had resigned myself to non-attendance, when a friend magicked a spare ticket for me). I had a stern talking to myself – hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
We entered the fabulously gaudy Olympia theatre without incident, and made our way to the bar where we took a seat and had a chat.
At about ten to nine the lights dropped, the atmosphere intensified and a hum of anticipation rippled through the audience.
The set was stark, simple and very beautiful – three neon strip boxes – the ones on the outside hosting the two backing singers. The central one housing Mr. Andy Bell – resplendent in a jacket coated in what looked like candle wax, over a glittery t-shirt saying ‘Thrasher’ and pair of flesh coloured, skin tight leggings. Vince Clarke overlooked the stage from his upper deck above the neon lights in a three piece suit – looking both sinister and lovely, like a cuddly, crypt keeper you’d want to introduce to your Irish Mammy. They launched with ‘Oh l’amour’ to the delirious applause of the appreciative audience.
Having seen and enjoyed shows by Mr Clarke’s previous collaborators Depeche Mode and Alison Moyet, and having loved both their shows, I was expecting great things from this concert. Clarke only mingles with the great.
And how great Erasure were. Famous for over thirty years with their songs of love and loss, their blend of dance pop and Bell’s soaring voice is something amazing to witness.
How the audience loved it. There were some hard-core fans in this audience – singing and dancing along to all the numbers – the hits and beyond. While I wouldn’t regard myself on the same playing field of fandom, I certainly enjoyed the newer songs which I didn’t recognise.
As for the hits – well when you have as many as they do, then you really are spoiled for choice – ‘Ship of fools’; ‘Chains of love’; ‘Victim of love’; ‘Drama’; ‘Stop’ ; ‘Sometimes’ among many others.
Some personal highlights were the remarkably lovely ‘Blue Savannah’ and ‘Always’ – the latter actually bringing a tear to my eye. I don’t know why, but that song has always been achingly beautiful and heartbreaking – and particularly so to the ears of a tragic teenaged closet case – which I was when it was first released. Andy was always ferociously out and proud – which was terrifying and fascinating to my youthful self.
The charisma of the duo and their singers was incredible.
I was completely smitten by the time it came to the show-stopping finale of ‘A little respect.’
I am well aware of the fact that I am prone to hyperbole, at the slightest provocation, but even so it is not an exaggeration to declare this one of the most thrilling and enthralling gigs I have ever attended – being up there, in fact, with Dolly Parton when it comes to sheer entertainment value. From me, that is praise indeed.