This was how it was always supposed to be. Where pop opulence meets romantic strolls; those lost days caught momentarily in time. Tonight the current ABC line up are joined by the Sinfinica orchestra, and from an opening double whammy of the chic When Smokey Sings and soaring elegance of Viva Love from Lexicon of Love 2, Martin Fry’s performance and Anne Dudley’s conducting are masterful.
As the last member to join ABC, Fry is last to leave. He has wisely retired the gold lame suit, although his shoes boast gold courtesy of Jimmy Choo. He’s loosening his tie by The Flames of Desire only 10 minutes in. It’s pop so tight you can hear the punctuation.
He graciously introduces songs, recalling the writing of new Love inside the love with Dudley, and when they first met in a Brick Lane studio in the early 80s. Those years shadow the first act, as the sequel to the seminal Lexicon of Love is played. His knack for an erudite middle 8 remains as intact as Neil Tennant’s. And as the strings simmer the schmaltz, it’s elegance on tap.
Inexplicably, in light of Rob Fusari arriving to play a neck-slung synth dipped in glitter, the overly wrought Singer not the Song doesn’t quite click. “We started as a punk band, and look what happened”, Fry jokes, as Confessions of a Fool recovers affairs, at least for those who’ve done their homework and bought the new LP; for the others it’s their loss.
Alongside Viva Love, Kiss me Goodbye was salvaged from sessions following 1991’s underrated soulful yacht pop of Abracadabra but it’s hard to begrudge Fry the shortcut. 1987’s The Night you Murdered Love closes the first half in flurry of tight disco. With such Stalinist rewriting of their history, the fair-weather fan might be mistaken for thinking they have only made two LPs. There’s no King without a Crown, or even the orchestral Ocean Blue.
Act 2 opener Show Me finally gets the crowd up. It’s quickly followed by the string stabs of Poison Arrow and Date Stamp, as Fry invites us into his time machine. He knows how dearly these songs are held. The cash till riff of lost single Date Stamp and the Prince-esque 2 gether 4 ever lose none of the funk as they punch their tight horn riffs. But after the swelling perfection of All of my Heart, it’s predictably The Look of Love that wins tonight, even returning for a slightly needless encore; it had already made its mark.
Fry is caught between the Rewind crowd wanting the hits and others who want development. As an artist Fry obviously sits in the latter camp, yet tonight his classical pop succeeds in pleasing both.
Tom Hocknell’s debut novel, the Life Assistance Agency, was published in September. It has been described as PG Wodehouse writes Da Vinci Code via Douglas Adams and is available here – myBook.to/lifeassistance