Interview: Gary Kemp (of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets) (@DAR Constitution Hall, 4/22/19)

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Spandau Ballet with Gary Kemp (far right) (Photo by Denis O’Regan)

Is there any more versatile performer than Gary Kemp? The charismatic musician and actor can play stadiums with his band Spandau Ballet and then light up the stage in London Theatreland. The creative genius today is on a US tour as a guitarist and vocalist for Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, supporting the legendary drummer of Pink Floyd in a performance of the seminal psychedelic band’s early material. The supergroup will perform in DC at DAR Constitution Hall on Monday, April 22.

Mickey McCarter of Parklife DC chatted with Gary Kemp about Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets and Spandau Ballet to discuss the future of both bands and what they mean to him. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.) For more information on Nick Mason, visit the website of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets.

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Around Town: Careless Memories @ Dodge City, 12/8/16

Duran Duran tour visits San Francisco in 1982Duran Duran for Melody Maker Magazine in England in 1982. (Photo by Chester Simpson)

This past month, Sting reopened the Bataclan, the Paris concert venue that was shuttered for roughly a year after a horrific terrorist attack. That 2015 terrorist attack occurred during a concert by the Eagles of Death Metal, who days prior to the show performed a cover of “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran with the band on UK television and then made the cover part of their live set.

In the aftermath of that experience, Duran Duran donated their royalties from the Eagles of Death Metal cover to charity, and then subsequently dedicated live performances of the song to the good in people — as a sort of protest against terror.

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Music Park: Parklife DC Top 10 Concerts of 2015 by Mickey

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Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet was a star player at the 9:30 Club on April 28, 2015. (Photo by Joy Asico)

When I look back upon 2015, I certainly discovered my share of new favorite bands. But I have to confess, the best shows of the year were dominated by legacy bands returning to reclaim their pop thrones. And so the shows I am most excited about in 2015 were generally those shows where a genre-defining artist came back to DC and absolutely mastered their art.

But I’ll add this postscript: 2015 also was the year of the punk rock girl, as several notable bands reminded me of how much I like a woman’s voice over a bit of surf or rockabilly guitar. I’ll explain more after my official list of Parklife DC Top 10 Concerts of 2015.

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Music Park: Spandau Ballet @ 9:30 Club — 4/28/15

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Tony Hadley sings in New York City on May 2, 2015.

Wow, Spandau!

Golden-voiced Tony Hadley jumped to the stage of the 9:30 Club Tuesday night and nailed the lyrics of more than two dozen amazing songs by his band Spandau Ballet into the collective consciousness of everyone within earshot.

In the process, Tony and his bandmates *almost* had more fun than the audience at the very so nearly sold-out show. And they most certainly made certain that after a decades-long absence from the United States that they would not be forgotten here generally or in DC specifically any time soon.

Buoyed by the confidence of a band in the thick of strong friendships and camaraderie and confident in a catalog of songs unmatched in their strength and appeal, Spandau Ballet stormed the 9:30 Club with soulful new wave tunes that left men and women aged 20 to 50 screaming for more.

Spandau Ballet weren’t just good — they were superb.

Tony hit the right note immediately with new song “Soul Boy,” also the title track of a new documentary Soul Boys of the Western World, about the band, premiering tonight, April 29, at the IFC Center in Manhattan with the band’s participation. During the song, the audience gets its first taste of the indefatigable Steve Norman on saxophone.

Steve is everywhere — almost always with his trademark sax in one hand — appearing on bongos in one song, slinging a guitar in another and trading his sax for an oboe in a big finale. The man is a one-man band, and perhaps the strongest player in Spandau Ballet if not the entire history of rock and roll. (If that sounds like glib hyperbole, I dare you to watch him in action and then challenge me on that statement.)

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Music Park: Spandau Ballet @ 9:30 Club, 4/28/15

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Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet sings in Italy on March 27, 2015.

I’m amazed to report that tickets are still available for tomorrow’s concert by Spandau Ballet at the 9:30 Club!

The Soul Boys of the Western World (to borrow the title of a new documentary about them) began the latest leg of their U.S. tour in Chicago on Saturday, April 25. Tonight, they perform in Toronto before returning to the United States Tuesday, April 28, for their show at the 9:30 Club. The reinvigorated quintet have been tearing up the concert circuit, earning great reviews, and generally wowing audiences with strong performances.

Their setlist at the House of Blues in Chicago on Saturday included new songs like “This Is the Love” as well as old favorites like “Chant No. 1,” “To Cut a Long Story Short,” “Gold” and of course “True.”

After Spandau Ballet leave DC, they will go to New York City Wednesday to host a special Q&A about their documentary, Soul Boys of the Western World, at the IFC Center in Manhattan. Although it doesn’t have a DC date, Soul Boys of the Western World will play around the country and be available for download through iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and YouTube, as well as other platforms, on Wednesday, April 29.

Listen to the bandmates in Spandau Ballet talk about touring the United States and other subjects in a clip from the U.K. interview show “Loose Women”:

And here’s a full show from London in 2009, the year the band reunited after being apart for about 19 years:

If you need more fuel in your fire to see the band, check out our brief recap of Spandau Ballet’s history. We were absolutely chuffed that the 9:30 Club linked to it in its weekly newsletter last week!

Spandau Ballet
9:30 Club
Tuesday, April 28
Doors @7pm
$45
All ages

Don’t Miss: Spandau Ballet @ 9:30 Club, 4/28/15

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Spandau Ballet (Photo by Scarlet Page)

They are the most significant band never to perform in Washington, DC.

But against the odds, they are about to rectify that situation in what could be the concert of the year. I say against the odds because the five members of Spandau Ballet notoriously split after a falling out with band leader Gary Kemp for decades, last touring North America in 1983.

Last year, the reunited Spandau Ballet hit their first shows on the U.S. west coast after their hiatus, and this month, they are returning to tour the east coast. The tour includes a stop at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, April 28, and in a video message from London on March 27, lead singer Tony Hadley made it clear, saying on the 9:30 Facebook page: “It’s the first time we’ve ever played in Washington!”

But the most significant band never to perform in DC? Really, Mickey?

Well, yes, I think so. Spandau Ballet came together in 1978 during a tumultuous time in London as the poster band for the New Romantic movement, a group of club savants who valued sexy sophistication and optimism as an antidote to the grit and pessimism of some of the punk bands at the time. The cultural movement and resulting music genre had its roots in the glam rock of David Bowie and Roxy Music, and its flagship bands came to embrace smart suits and synthesizers.

Spandau Ballet started out as the house band for Ground Zero of this movement, The Blitz Club, run by Steve Strange. They quickly got to work on powerful dance albums, the first two of which were produced by Richard James Burgess, who is now a DC-area resident who has taught at the Annapolis Music School and The Omega Studios’ School of Applied Recording Arts and Sciences in addition to serving as director of marketing at Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution.

Of course, Spandau Ballet are most famous in the United States for their third album, True, which produced two U.S. top 40 hits in 1983—“True” (#4) and “Gold” (#27). Here are Spandau Ballet performing “True” on Jimmy Kimmel Live in November 2014:

After years apart, the band reunited in 2009, and I flew to Glasgow to see them at S.E.C.C. on Oct. 27, 2009. They were in fine form and high spirits, and they easily lived up to the hype generated by the legacy of their original six studio albums and resulting cultural dominance. Spandau Ballet are every bit as worth seeing in concert as their friendly rivals Duran Duran, with whom they share the ideals and banner of the New Romantics.

Spandau Ballet’s current world tour is inspired in part by a documentary covering their career and reunion, Soul Boys of the Western World. As the title of this post says, don’t miss this show! (An opening act has yet to be confirmed, but with any luck, we may get DJ Rusty Egan, the world-famous Blitz DJ and drummer for the band Visage, who has been supporting them in Europe recently.)

Spandau Ballet
9:30 Club
Tuesday, April 28
Doors @7pm
$45 (VIP packages, $95/$200)
All ages