17th October 2021
Review by Victoria Fenbane
Photography by Dovaldė Gaidelionytė
Eighties top 10 electropop duo Erasure played the penultimate date of their Neon tour at London’s O2. Unusually for these times, this show was taking pace on the originally scheduled date. The band having delayed the tour to promote new their latest album ‘The Neon’, which was released in August 2020 when music venues were still closed. During lockdown the livestreamed informal zoom chats between Andy Bell and Vince Clarke made for a unique album promo experience as a replacement.
Support for the O2 show only came from Blancmange, at the personal invite from Erasure. Best known for their 1982 single ‘Living On the Ceiling’, their 45 minute set also included ‘Feel Me’ and ‘I Can’t Explain ‘from the same album (‘Happy Families’). The set also featured three songs from the follow up album ‘Mange Tout’: ‘Blind Vision’, ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Game Above My Head’, and the ABBA cover ‘The Day Before You Came’. ‘Blind Vision was chosen as the closing song instead of their greatest hit, which borough the crowd pleaser sooner than expected. The three band members looked quite lost on the huge O2 stage without much dynamic lighting. It looked like an intimidating atmosphere in which to perform, and unfortunately, the crowds participation was quite weak. Blancmange are a band are often only known by dedicated fans of 80’s synth-based pop. I was glad to be able to now tick them off my ‘bands to see’ list.
The O2 stage was decorated with stepped circular stage risers, a swing and a merry-go-round. From the celling hung three ovals and several crescent shapes, which gave me the impression of soundwaves emanating from a speaker. As the house lights dimmed, the stage was brought to life with three high-resolution video screens within the ovals. Those hung at the sides of the stage were used to show the band, while the central once displayed visuals. The rims of the video screens, the circular stage risers and the crescent shapes lit up in solid neon colours. Reminding me of a mid-80’s Top of the Pops set. Andy launched into 1991 hit ‘Chorus’ while laced into an electric blue corset made by legendary corsetier Mr. Pearl. Andy was joined at the front by two dynamic singers clad in neon green and orange coats and stompy boots. In contrast, at the back behind the keyboards, Vince Clarke, deadpan as always, was wearing a sensible grey suit and getting on with the serious business of generating the music.
The singers sensibly shed their massive coats at the start of the second song ‘Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling)’ the first of four from latest album ‘The Neon’. The singers neon asymmetric dresses, with a high leg split and huge feather boa trim were mirror images each other. The colour of each which matched their now discarded coats and contributed to the to the camp of the stage setup.
Andy and the singers moved around the large stage set with impressive presence, in contrast to the support act looking swamped. Vince could not hide away. Every time he was projected onto the video screens a big cheer went up. In response to which he does not break a smile and maintains a serious concentration face.
During 1987 single ‘The Circus’ the singers play on the swing and merry-go-round. They are an integral part of the band in this performance and not just backing singers, singing some of the vocal parts, which are expected to be sung by Andy. Both have amazing voices, which compliment Andy perfectly.
Deadpan Vince taps away on a light-up tambourine for ‘Who Needs Love Like That’, not breaking into a smile unlike in the music video of the same song. Next they launch in to another new one, the awesome ‘Nerves of Steel’, which a large proportion of the audience are not familiar with. I hope that they are now, because Erasure are still producing relevant and interesting music.
‘Chorus’ album track ‘Turns the Love to Anger’ makes a welcome appearance. ‘Careful What I Try To Do’ from The Neon is introduced with a shout out to Andy’s husbands who had to fly back to Miami. Huge hit ‘Sometimes’ sees Vince strumming on a guitar as in the video.
Andy jokes about not knowing lyrics to the newer songs despite only writing them last year, and then flawlessly performs ‘Shot a Satellite’, another song from The Neon, which does not get the crowd response it deserves.
Immediately prior to performing the irresistibly danceable ‘Love to Hate You’, Vince cuts Andy out of this custom corset with a pair of scissors. I feel for the crewmember who has the job of re-lacing that corset before every show! The singer slips into a yellow t-shirt featuring a cheeky chimp, unrestrained for the rest of the show.
A cover of the Eurythmics ‘Love Is a Stranger’ results in a crowd singalong. As does the next song ‘Drama!’. ‘Always’ is accompanied by beautiful visuals on the centre screen in the same style as the music video. The performance of this wonderful ballad is just perfect and emotional. Hi-NRG ‘Stop!’ brings use straight back to the party mood and is very popular with the crowd. Andy is busting out the dancefloor moves for ‘Push Me Shove Me’ and the show closes with ‘Victim of Love’ where Vince is back on guitar and the ‘backing’ singers get to shine.
There is a special surprise for the encore of this London show and it is not just Andy’s glitter platform boots. The band were joined on the stage by the Funky Voices community based choir for ‘l’amour’ and ‘A Little Respect’.
A fantastic night and strong performance by a band which are very much not stuck in the past. Long live synthpop!!