Tony Hadley has left life in Spandau Ballet behind to embark on a solo tour with a new album, Talking to the Moon, from which he performed several original songs, as well as some classic Spandau ‘gold’ (see what I did there) at Manchester Opera House on the 13th October.
The show opened with the superbly energetic ‘Take Back Everything’, the first track of the new album. Whilst receiving a very good reception, it was clear that most of the audience were there primarily for the classics.
This theory was proven by the unmistakable synthesised introduction to Spandau’s ‘To Cut a Long Story Short’. The atmosphere of the hall turned on a dime, the entire audience were suddenly on their feet and dancing in the aisles, screaming, and having a ball all round.
The clear difference in attitude towards songs new and old was not a problem for our host. During a break between songs, Hadley acknowledged the wide-ranging desire to hear Spandau Ballet’s eighties classics, and graciously obliged whilst also appreciating the very warm reception of the new album, a reception which only grew stronger the more originals he performed.
These included ‘Skin Deep’, a ballad about inner beauty, which Hadley related to the age of social media and the current climate of obsession around physical and superficial beauty, ‘Accident Waiting to Happen’ and ‘Killer Blow’, both providing a punchier, more intense antithesis to the softer tone of ‘Skin Deep’.
Peppered throughout the set were the songs that made Spandau Ballet an eighties sensation. ‘Through the Barricades’ featured the powerhouse vocals of percussionist Lily Gonzalez, ‘Round and Round’, ‘Only When You Leave’, ‘Chant No. 1’, ‘Lifeline’ and ‘Highly Strung’ all featured maximum audience participation, as did a stripped back, acoustic rendition of ‘I’ll Fly for You’.
A surprise anomaly came next in the shape of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’, and whilst it wasn’t quite Mercury-standard, it was yet more proof that age has in no way had an effect on Hadley’s voice.
The set concluded with the ever-beautiful ‘True’. After two minutes of teasing, the audience becoming rowdier and rowdier with requests for one more song, their wishes were granted with the long-awaited ‘Gold’, followed by the closing track of Talking to the Moon, entitled ‘What Am I?’, a semi-autobiographical ballad with personal sentiment regarding Hadley’s decision to leave Spandau Ballet.
As the cheering died down, the night ended with a rendition of Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’, momentarily transforming Manchester Opera House into a 1930s New York jazz club.
Any artist worries about an audience’s reception to new music, especially an artist with prestige. Of all of them, Tony Hadley needn’t concern himself in the slightest. I have rarely been to a concert where the artist was wrapped in such a warm, accepting and encouraging atmosphere — every song was like an encore.
These were fans who had grown up with Spandau Ballet’s music, and given Tony Hadley’s very apparent credentials as an all-round lovely man, and his gift for showmanship, there was no danger of his new album being greeted with anything less than sheer joy, a joy which stems from an all-encompassing love for the artist himself.
Tony Hadley has still got it, and he’s got the fans to match.