Brighton Cente, Brighton 23/11/2014
It's a familiar cycle: a band who have been around forever release a new album (usually in an increasingly expensive series of exclusive editions, box sets and so on), hit the road on a global tour before the promotion for said album has even been completed, and then proceed to play barely any of the new album at all in their live set in favour of all the crowd-pleasing hits. It makes you wonder why they bothered spending any money on recording a new album in the first place.
Such is the case with Erasure's The Violet Flame, where just four tracks from the much-lauded, critically-rated new LP managed to scrape into what was essentially an Erasure greatest hits concert. And yet those four tracks - 'Reason', 'Elevation', 'Sacred' and 'Dead Of Night' - seemed to be the ones that Andy Bell, the bejewelled master of ceremonies in his top hat and tails, felt most at home with vocally. Sadly, and somewhat predictably, they were also the tracks that saw a lot of people migrate toward the bar.
Audience reaction to the new stuff to one side, the set once again proved how enduring Vince Clarke and Andy Bell's songs remain. 'Stop!', 'A Little Respect' and the opening rendition of 'Oh L'Amour' were all strong reminders of the duo's classic sound, while the obligatory encore of 'Sometimes' produced chills like it always does. Bell was as flamboyant and witty as ever, describing his outfit as attempting to be 'Liza Minelli meets Lucille Ball' but conceding that it looked more like 'Slash meets Willy Wonka'. The latter was much closer to the truth.
In contrast, Vince was as stoic as ever, fiddling with his laptop way back in the shadows and occasionally smacking a drum pad when he felt like it. The duo only really felt like a duo for 'Victim Of Love', when Andy moved to the back of the stage and Vince emerged from behind his laptop to stand next to him with an acoustic guitar, but that's the curious dynamic that's always prevailed between the flamboyant front man and the reserved musician.
Old tracks like 'Star' and 'You Surround Me' were dusted off and given fresh new arrangements, the former taking on a chunky, heavy sound while the latter was sped up and given a more muscular treatment including sampled electric guitars that sounded briefly like Blondie's 'One Way Or Another'. 'Chorus' and 'Love To Hate You' both began with long, pulsing, introductions that showed Vince's time of knocking out minimal techno mixes has helped him bring some of the slow-reveal drama to his electronic pop work. 'Ship Of Fools' was given a skeletal electro feel that didn't quite work, and which sounded a lot like Madonna's 'Justify My Love' (and not in a good way) while 'Chains Of Love' was pitched way too fast, leaving behind a lot of the soul and emotion that made that song so memorable in the first place.
In the second half of the set, Andy pointed at his Debbie Harry t-shirt and said that she'd taught him that you can never have enough 'woahs' in your music. It may have been intended simply to raise a laugh from the crowd, but it's also one of the reasons that this duo have succeeded where others have fallen by the wayside. Few other synth duos have so perfectly combined soul with the soullessness of synths and it's a formula that continues to serve them well.
BRIGHTON - BRIGHTON CENTRE - 23/11/2014
Oh L’Amour / Star / Reason / Breath of Life / You Surround Me / Elevation / Stop! / Drama / Victim of Love / Ship of Fools / Sacred / Breathe / Dead of Night / Blue Savannah / Chorus / Love To Hate You / A Little Respect / Chains of Love / Always / Sometimes
Review by Mat Smith. Photographs by Andy Sturmey.
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