Live Review: Heaven 17 @ The Birchmere — 9/25/22

Glenn Gregory fronts Heaven 17 at The Birchmere on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Finally, on a full tour of the United States, Heaven 17 recently engaged a DC-area audience at The Birchmere with stories and song, providing a fascinating look at the history of the band.

The synthpop collective’s core duo of Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware have known each other since they were teens in Sheffield, England, so they arrive to the United States more than 45 years into their association full of fond tales and bright tunes.

Glen recalled, for example, how Martyn might dress in a bright green jacket, tight white pants, and platform shoes before going out for clubbing with him in the ‘70s.

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Interview: Martyn Ware of Heaven 17 (@ The Birchmere, 9/25/22)

Heaven 17 Photo 1 (credit - Chris Youd)
Heaven 17 with Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (right) (Photo by Chris Youd)

In the early days of pop electronic music, Martyn Ware was full of big ideas in Sheffield, England. He teamed up with vocalist Phil Oakey to establish the original incarnation of The Human League. The band revamped after two studio albums, and Martyn and collaborator Ian Craig Marsh moved on to form Heaven 17 with singer Glenn Gregory.

Full of sophistication and soul, Heaven 17 (named for a fictitious band referenced in A Clockwork Orange) became UK chart fixtures from 1981-1986, releasing acclaimed albums such as debut Penthouse and Pavement, UK platinum record The Luxury Gap, and more. Their songs “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” “The Height of the Fighting (He-La-Hu),” “Let Me Go,” and “Temptation,” among others, remain in heavy rotation on satellite radio and the internet.

Heaven 17 never toured until 1997, and the band never mounted a full USA tour. That is about to change as Martyn and Glenn lead a Heaven 17 Tour starting tonight, Sept. 16, in New York. The tour hits the DC metro area at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, on Sunday, Sept. 25.

Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with synthesist Martyn Ware about this long-awaited US tour, his autobiography and podcast, and what’s next for Heaven 17. He was, as you would expect, warm, witty, and welcoming.

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Live Review: Roxy Music w/ St. Vincent @ Capital One Arena — 9/9/22

Guitarist Phil Manzanera, Drummer Paul Thompson, and vocalist Bryan Ferry perform as Roxy Music at Capital One Arena on Sept. 9, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

Fifty years ago, glam rockers Roxy Music released their self-titled debut album, shifting the tide of pop music in the United Kingdom certainly and eventually elevating the sophistication of the modern musical conversation globally.

Never particularly chart toppers in the United States, Roxy Music nonetheless have embarked on an entirely spectacular if slightly surprising 50th-anniversary tour of our country. During the band’s recent performance at Capital One Arena, frontman Bryan Ferry referenced their longevity, saying it was challenging to sort songs from a long career when mounting a retrospective show.

“But we had to do this one from our first album,” Ferry said, introducing “If There Is Something.”

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Preview: Roxy Music @ Capital One Arena, 9/9/22

Roxy Music in the 1970s (Photo by Brian Cooke)

Roxy Music, one of the most influential and exhilarating music acts in history, tours for the first time in more than a decade to mark the 50th year since their groundbreaking debut album.

Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson also celebrate their 50th anniversary in a rare North American Tour, which includes a show at Capital One Arena in DC on Friday, Sept. 9!

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Live Review: Howard Jones w/ Midge Ure @ 9:30 Club — 7/19/22

Howard JonesHoward Jones delivered a superb performance at 9:30 Club on July 19, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

“I’m going to write the most positive song I’ve ever written in my entire life!” Howard Jones declared to himself when crafting the pandemic-era album, Dialogue, which has released this year. He was inspired to write as “things were getting better,” and the result was worthy!

Now, the British new wave singer-songwriter is known for his share of positive messages, so this was a tall order in deed. The new song, however, “Celebrate It Together,” one of three new tunes performed by Howard in his recent appearance at 9:30 Club, was embraced with enthusiasm by the very full house.

In fact, the entire night was something of a lovefest with the talented Mr. Jones in top shape, commanding a full array of synthesizers, accompanied by his long-time friend Midge Ure as opener.

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Live Interview: Midge Ure (@ 9:30 Club, 7/19/22)

Midge UreMidge Ure (Photo courtesy Chuff Media)

The 9:30 Club encapsulated its upcoming night of highly intellectual dance music perfectly:

“Ah, sophisti-pop: the most elegant genre from music’s most elegant decade, the ’80s. Fusing together all the best parts — both musically and aesthetically — of new wave, soul, and jazz, Howard Jones and Midge Ure (both with Ultravox and as a solo performer) came to define the sound alongside Rough Trade royalty like The Style Council, The Human League, and Scritti Politti.

“Be warned, you may experience the following side effects at a Howard Jones & Midge Ure show: 1) feeling good, 2) dancing great, and 3) looking even better!”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. But I do get to add some dimension to the adroit concert preview by interviewing the one and only Midge Ure himself. Parklife’s Mickey McCarter chatted about his old friend Howard Jones, the resurgent and powerful Kate Bush, and his own experiences in going viral prior to his appearance at 9:30 Club on Tuesday, July 19.

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Live Review: Martin Fry and ABC @ Sony Hall (New York City) — 7/6/22

Martin Fry fronts ABC at Sony Hall in New York City on July 6, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

About a decade ago, I was in Manhattan for an umbrella Bowie party that featured local performers riffing on The Thin White Duke and the new wave musicians he inspired. One of the acts was a wonderful interpretive dance set to “Mantrap,” the long-form music video directed by Julien Temple to promote the Lexicon of Love, the sensational debut album by soulful sophisticates ABC. (As I recall, the dancer was New York City’s own Alison Clancy.)

The Cold War-colored video starred Martin Fry, the square-jawed frontman of ABC, and it was truly inspired as the always well-dressed Fry cuts still a figure who appears wholly emerged from a romantic spy thriller — today perhaps even moreso with his shock of silver hair and authoritative eyes. I was appreciative to be there too when Martin made his first concert appearance inside Manhattan in quite some years at a recent sold-out show on Broadway’s Sony Hall with his contemporary ABC band, and it was absolutely transcendent.

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Live Review: China Crisis @ City Winery — 7/3/22

China Crisis perform at City Winery DC on July 3, 2022. (Photos by Mickey McCarter)

In a recent appearance at City Winery DC, vocalist Gary Daly of UK new wave quartet China Crisis reflected on the band’s early days and how success came quick for the pop upstarts.

After their first album dropped in 1982, the band found themselves touring the United States in the next few years, and Gary and his bandmates were struck by the vastness of the foreign land. The band ultimately captured that sense of wonder in “Arizona Sky,” a song that appeared on their fourth album, What Price Paradise, and that the band played as the second song on their setlist.

China Crisis maintained that sense of wonder on their USA 40th anniversary tour, during which they performed their easily recognizable dance hits alongside some irresistible deep cuts, including their July 3 appearance at City Winery.

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Live Review: Bryan Ferry @ The Anthem — 8/13/19

BryanFerry14 Bryan Ferry performs at The Anthem on Aug. 13, 2019. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

In March, Roxy Music was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In a speech formally presenting the honor, Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon recalled how Roxy’s first single “Virginia Plain” was a pop culture bomb to the British public.

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