Spandau Ballet concert: The ultimate throwback
Patricia Esteves (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Mr. Taxi Driver was baffled why many people, mostly middle-aged, were flocking to the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on a rainy Monday evening. It turned out that iconic ‘80s British band Spandau Ballet was performing for a special one-night concert for their Filipino fans. It was the band’s first time to hold a gig in Manila, dubbed Soul Boys of the Western World.

“This is the ultimate throwback,” quipped one concert-goer, who spent P6,750 to be on the VIP aisle. “I’ve been waiting for them all my life,” gushed another woman in her early 50s.

What a blast from the past it was. For one brief moment, frontman Tony Hadley, brothers Martin Kemp (bassist) and Gary Kemp (guitarist) and Steven Norman (saxophonist) “transported” the audience back to the ‘80s when they dished out their beloved hits True, Gold and Through the Barricades, among their many other hits.

But it was Hadley’s well-preserved voice that seemed to fleetingly “suspend time” while he was crooning their hits. When he sang the opening strains of True, it was like 1983 once again.



Now, in their 50s, the members showed no signs of slowing down. They were in their element as they pulled through a 25-song set in two hours. The band’s drummer John Keeble did not join the band because of an ailment. Norwegian singer-songwriter Per Oyster Sorensen of Fra Lippo Lippi opened the show promptly at 8 p.m.

At the concert, two big screens on the side of the stage showed footage from their documentary Soul Boys of the Western World, which chronicled Spandau Ballet’s rise to fame as well as their fall.

The documentary traced Spandau’s beginnings at a London nightclub that gave birth to the new Romantics movement, an era in music that started in the ‘80s. Spandau became the poster boys of the new Romantic movement and helped mold the sound of ‘80s glam pop. Yes, in their heyday, Spandau has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide and produced 23 hit singles. 

The band’s infectious ballad True topped the charts in 21 countries. Their first single To Cut The Long Story Short, surged to No. 5 in the British music charts. Hit after hit came and Spandau became one of the most successful bands in the ‘80s. But at the beginning of the ‘90s, the members were feeling burned out, with the negative side of fame and fortune taking a toll on the group. Ego and resentment hounded the members and in 1990, Hadley, Norman and Keeble battled with Martin in court over songwriting royalties. Then in 2009, after 28 years of being separated, the members decided to reconcile and started to perform together again.

Although they split up, Spandau Ballet’s members never descended into the well-trodden alcohol-and-drugs hell path suffered by some of their contemporaries. And this was clearly evident during their performance at the MOA Arena on Monday when they performed in good shape.

The members proved that they still have what it takes as they moved around the stage like they were only in their 20s. Norman was a livewire on stage as he played the saxophone like there was no tomorrow. The Kemp brothers were prolific with their guitars. But it was Hadley’s voice that truly amazed me. How can it be the same rich and melodious voice that I’ve frequently listened to when I was a young girl in the ‘80s?

When he sang Through the Barricades and navigated the highs and lows of the song, I thought I was hearing a young Hadley of the yesteryear. He has put on a little weight and it’s hard not to notice that tender flesh beneath his chin, but the quality of his voice remained the same.

I grew up on Hadley’s voice. In 1984, when there was no Instagram, no Twitter and online streaming services, music was all I had. I used to sing Gold and felt rejuvenated by its “can-do” positive message. The band’s music was a large part of my childhood and in the freeze frame of time, Hadley to me was the fashionable balladeer who sang every song with so much soul.

The rest of the people who watched the concert must have felt nostalgic as well. The crowd got up to its feet during the numbers Highly Strung, Only When You Leave and Round and Round. At the concert, Spandau also performed their newest songs Soul Boy, This is Love and Still, which they wrote after they reunited in 2009. The songs are part of their retrospective album The Story — The Very Best of Spandau Ballet.

The band also did a medley of their earlier hits Instinction, Reformation, Mandolin, The Freeze, Confused and To Cut a Long Story Short.

When they sang Lifeline, the jam-packed arena broke into a frenzied dancing and singing. “In the lifeline, we’re walking, in the lifeline, we’re throwing, so live and let live in love,” the crowd sang in unison. Afterwards, the audience got wild when Hadley finally sang their greatest hit True. The lights went out and of course, there was an encore, a relaxed Hadley, sipping a glass of Jack Daniels, went back to the stage, and this time sang a heartfelt Through the Barricades. Finally, Gold culminated in a massive sing-along “You are gold, always believe in your soul, you’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible, always believe in, that you are gold,” the adoring fans crooned. 

When the song ended, the members bowed for the audience, looking overwhelmed at the love of their Filipino fans, who were only too happy that they have reunited and are sharing their music to the world once more.


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