1 November 2018
The Eventim Apollo
reviewed by Adam McCormack
The boys from Islington are back – sort of. What constitutes a tribute band? If you take away a distinctive element of one of the iconic pop groups of the 1980’s is it really the same? These are the dilemma’s faced by fans of both Queen, since Adam Lambert stepped into Freddie Mercury’s shoes, and now Spandau Ballet with Ross William Wild replacing Tony Hadley as lead singer after the latter stepped aside due to “circumstances beyond his control”.
Embarking on their first UK performances since 2015, Spandau Ballet had no problem selling out the Apollo, but this proved to be something of a slow burner of a show. The Apollo, while being a renowned music venue, is still in essence a very large old cinema and, while generating atmosphere in the stalls more quickly, it took some time before the whole auditorium was involved. This may in part be down to getting accustomed to the new lead singer, although (and this is where the tribute band issue arises) Ross William Wild sounds so like Tony Hadley you could have closed your eyes and been convinced that the founding crooner was there. William Wild’s background as a musical theatre performer is very evident, but this too is not an issue given that such a singing style was part of the Spandau USP. So why did the evening take time to get going? The real reason I would suggest is down to the order of song choices. After the inevitable initial fervour, things settled down too quickly with the band playing some of their more obscure early songs and more recent material recorded when they first reformed in 2009/10 and when they worked 3 years ago with Trevor Horne. Even the song that they introduced as having been played first at Live Aid in 1985 (Virgin) was not an obvious choice, and Gary Kemp’s decision to sing She Loved Like Diamond himself, as opposed to letting the new lead do it, was strange. If you want the audience on your side play stuff they know – and this was not helped when they launched into a “Blitz” medley of their early New Romantics material. It was not until, at the end of the montage, they launched into To Cut a Long Story Short, that the audience was properly won over.
From this point the atmosphere rose as the successive greatest hits got steadily greater; through Lifeline, Instinction, Communication, True, Through the Barricades and, of course finally, Gold. As musicians the band still remain as tight as ever, with Steve Norman displaying every aspect of his versatility and Gary Kemp as ever the consummate creative musical professional. Die-hard fans may or may not warm to the new lead singer, but there is no doubting his ability to deliver the material to its best. An evening then that took some time to get going, but the highs (when they finally came) were well worth the wait.