Last night I was sitting in the Royal Albert Hall, surrounded by the bald, the middle aged and the surprisingly badly dressed to listen (again) to Martin Fry and his merry posse of hired musicians. Tonight was nevertheless special, as this motley crew of musical mercenaries played some ABC songs with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Well, not really ‘some songs’. Last night’s big promise was that these two groups of musicians would attempt to play each and every song of the best album of the eighties, the remarkable ‘Lexicon of Love’. This legendary mixture of northern funk, luscious string arrangements and Fry’s remarkable lyrics has always been a hidden gem in the history of the barren eighties and – being the ABC fan that I am – I obviously had to go.
By the time I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall (unfortunately 15 minutes late) ABC was already into the first half of their gig, a collection of their best loved singles outside Lexicon of Love. Interestingly enough, the ones that worked the best with the enormous orchestra behind the band were the slow traks from the ‘How to be a Zillionaire’ album, ‘Be near me’ and ‘Ocean Blue’. When you have three classic percussionists and a ‘contemporary’ percussionist, you can make a hell of funny noises and pretty much play your tracks picture perfect. The orchestra was led by (oscarwinning) Anne Dudley, who arranged the strings for the album all those years back.
The second set started with a bit of a let down: Trevor Horn might be a brillant producer, but his nervous and rambling introduction, read from a chaotic looking stack of papers was a bit embarassing. He was miles away from his convincing and calm self at his 25 year concert at Wembley. But then, finally, the main event. The orchestral introduction to ‘Show Me’ sounds 2008 just as good as 25 years and still manages to send shivers down my spine. Steven Palmer, the drummer on The Lexicon of Love, was in top form. With a battery of midi pads and a ‘proper’ drum set, he was able to recreate all thoughs wonderful percussive sounds that made the album so special and groovy. From then on it was a bit like doing Karaoke with 4000 other singers (not that I do Karaoke, but that’s what it felt like). The whole arena obviously new every word to every song and a bizarre singalong developed that obviously culminated in a rousing rendition of ‘The Look of Love’ (played twice. The encore with Gold Lame Suit).
It cost my 75 bloody pounds, but it was the most enjoyable evening of Karaoke I’ve ever had.