Written for Noise Cannon. And yes, I went out of my way to research whether it was a trilby or fedora. It was a fedora. Read on to find out what on earth I’m talking about…
A man squeezes his way through the crowd, four pints teetering in hand. It’s not the alcohol, nor being so insistent on reaching the front of the sold-out O2 Guildhall Southampton that captured the dizzying spectacle of tonight. It’s more his glitter-encrusted fedora, with blinking LEDs, strobing to the accelerating claps and stomps. It’s a safe assumption that all four cups were bought in the hope that just one would survive.
And then Erasure arrive.
Erasure are amidst the tour of their latest album The Violet Flame. Despite the title, there aren’t any spectacular pyrotechnics, and the lights are mostly limited to spotlights, yet with an atmosphere so electric, a sound so energetic and a room so painfully sweltering, it is totally unnecessary. Besides, for anybody ungrateful enough, frontman Andy Bell is a human mirror ball in his silver tux jacket, assisted by Vince Clarke, who was barely recognizable (hiding in the shadows of two wigged backing singers, nicknamed ‘The Hair Bear Bunch’), but definitely noticeable beneath his monstrous afro hairpiece.
It only takes two songs, early career hits ‘Oh, L’Amour’ and ‘Star’, until Clark can bear it no longer, and lost the hair. It is the first of many costume changes, as Bell quickly follows suit as the tuxedo was lost to reveal a Joy Division tank top. Before long, it was a black and (surprise!) silver ‘WERK WERK WERK’ shirt. Bell’s gyrations shamelessly make sure that everyone notices the moment his outrageously short and tight pants are revealed.
The experience was one of bizarre fusion. At many other shows, a band may be in danger of being ‘carried’, or even ‘defeated’ by an audience. Tonight, both work in unison, not in any form of battle. It is a friendship. Tonight is a buzzing get-together, rather than the brutal bounce of a nightclub. Erasure are leading the way on a camp, yet totally unembarrassed parade, skipping flamboyantly and screaming along with the high notes of ‘A Little Respect’, which Bell still achieves with ease.
It is an impressive career retrospective, with an inevitable fluctuation of reaction between the old hits and the few new songs, but it’s a problem that Erasure manage to play down. One song in particular steals the show as the very peak of energy. Bell was at his finest and he jumps and punches the air with his microphone to induce a room-rattling call, as everyone signals with their hands and shout the title – ‘Stop!’
And to think that Bell had earlier apologized: “I am operating on two hours sleep.” Nobody is convinced. The chest-shattering bass thuds and synth pulses from Clarke’s table of sonic gadgets meant that a similarly pulsing headache should’ve been due for poor Bell. Or not, as a grin never leaves his face as he skips flamboyantly across the stage non-stop for an hour-and-a-half, with only a change into his next shirt to catch his breath.
If the playful and sexualised attitude can be defined with one word, comes from Bell, who purrs and calls the sizzling audience ‘steamy’. Erasure still put on a show that any synth-pop fanatic could tip their glittery and blinking fedoras to.
EDIT: I felt a bit too proud of that last sentence. Still, NC chose that quote to post a link on Twitter to the review.