I didn’t see my first concert until I was an undergraduate at the University of Delaware in 1992, and that concert was a performance by Howard Jones! It was a busy time for Howard, who released a new album that year. As college kids, we were still consuming his last album, Cross That Line, which introduced two quintessential songs in Howard’s catalog — “The Prisoner” and “Everlasting Love,” both US top 40 hits.
So of course I was thrilled that Howard Jones performed both songs when he stopped at The Hamilton Live on Saturday, Sept. 3, continuing a mini-tour on the heels of wrapping up his summer travels with the Barenaked Ladies.
Howard played “The Prisoner” as the second song in his set, and took time to reflect upon the song’s meaning. He mused that it once suggested the belief of Australian aboriginals and others that taking a photograph of someone “captures” their soul. While not abandoning that possible meaning in the song, Howard told the full house at The Hamilton that today he identifies the song with Stockholm Syndrome. For him, it’s come to signify love for someone who is holding you captive.
Well, no one was being held captive Saturday night, but the audience loved what they heard from the new wave superstar nonetheless. He sounded great as he synthed his way through a solid set of 16 songs, wearing his keytar around his shoulders the entire time. Howard’s songs are generally joyous songs, and the man and his audience were in high spirits indeed as he often performed at the very lip of the stage, slapping and shaking hands in full communal spirit with the people who find meaning in his music.
Speaking of joyous, Howard’s new stuff make for welcome additions to his songbook, including “Joy” from his 2015 album Engage, released via Dtox Records. The song is an uplifting New Romantic-styled ode to moving forward in your life. Howard also plays the new album’s title track, a super-cool, extra-synthy contemplation of human interaction. It’s an instant favorite for me now after hearing it live, and I highly recommend checking out the new album.
Early in the set, Howard performs his very newest song, “Eagle Will Fly Again,” from the soundtrack of the terrific film Eddie the Eagle, which was released earlier this year. That soundtrack album also is well worth a listen as it contains a collection of new material from synth pioneers like Howard, Midge Ure, Marc Almond, and others.
Every song by Howard is a crowd pleaser, so it’s redundant to emphasize that he delivered a number of fan favorites including “No One Is to Blame,” “Like to Get to Know You Well,” “Live in One Day,” and “What Is Love.” In his encore, he hits “New Song” and “Things Can Only Get Better” and both are as fully as amazing as ever. He also plays “Hide and Seek,” which he identifies as his personal favorite of his own songs early in the set, and later he gets to “Everlasting Love,” one of those songs whose power I began this blog appreciating.
You will appreciate a show by Howard Jones, who always give a stunning performance that leaves his audiences happy, singing and dancing for the rest of the night. Howard hits Australia in November, and he has a few scattered dates in the US south before decamping to an English tour next year. With any luck, he’ll be back again soon as he’s made a habit of visiting DC regularly in recent years. I recall the thrill of seeing him at the Howard Theatre in 2012, when I witnessed his reclamation of the full synth glory of his past for the first time after spending some years in the wilderness as an acoustic act. Well, no one can accuse him of resting on his laurels these days! He’s an electric, energizing performer, and he fully warrants your attention at the earliest opportunity you can go see him again.
Here are some more pictures of Howard Jones performing at The Hamilton Live on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016.