Friday, 23 March 2018

30 years later, I went to London to see Erasure Live again

5 years ago, while I was listening to my 21st Anniversary Edition of The Innocents CD (and watching the live DVD from the same tour in which I saw them in 1988), I thought that it would be a good idea to go and see them live again in 2018, on the 30th anniversary of my first Erasure gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. (Two years before that, in 2011, I had been reminded of what a great experience that had been when Marsheaux went to see them.) So, when they released a new album last year, "World Be Gone", I thought, "Great, there will be a tour next year, so my wish will come true.". When the tour was announced however, I discovered that all the European dates were in the winter when it would be hard for me to find some free time to go and see them. Would they play any festivals in the summer? The answer came soon enough: "No, they would not. They would go to America (North and South). By then, most of the European dates were sold out. Among those few that were not sold out, were the London dates. And then I noticed something spooky! The London dates were at the exact same venue where I had first seen them 30 years ago: Hammersmith Odeon (now known as the Eventim Apollo"). Surely, that was a sign, wasn't it? It must have been because I bought my ticket there and then! (And that's what I was hinting at on my first blog post of the year which featured a picture from the artwork of "World Be Gone", Erasure's latest album). 30 years was the longest gap for me between two gigs of the same band. I had seen Depeche Mode in 2006 21 years after the first time I had seen them in 1985 and the Pet Shop Boys in 2013, 22 years after my first time in 1991. The only thing that worried me was that these last few available tickets, labeled "Rear Circle Standing", were also marked as "Restricted View". Would I be able to see anything? I had no time to wonder about this since, as I have already said, this was definitely a sign. So even though, as I had already suspected, I didn't have much free time that weekend, and I had left everything for the last minute, and as a result flight and hotel prices were starting to rise, I completed my bookings and was ready for take-off. So what if I had to fly back at 6am the next morning? I booked a room practically next to Heathrow to compensate. (I actually walked from Heathrow to my hotel and back).
My flight was with Austrian Airlines via Vienna, so I got to see the snowy Vienna International Airport as I changed flights there.

In fact, the flight from Vienna to London was a bit delayed because the plane had to be de-iced as the snow was getting heavier. Plus, in the back of my mind was the fact that a severe cold front was approaching northern Europe (in fact all Europe apart from Greece and would arrive on Sunday, the day I was supposed to be flying back to Athens. London was cold, but there was no snow as I arrived on Friday night. I took the (free) Heathrow Express from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5 and from there, after struggling a bit with the instructions from Google Maps I managed to walk to my hotel.
The following day, the day of the gig, I woke up refreshed, walked to Terminal 5 and got the Tube to London. My first stop was Hammersmith, to have a look at the venue. Indeed, seeing it, with the letters at the Marquee spelling "ERASURE" made me realize that "This is it! It's almost time". So, after a couple of other stops around London, one of which was at my beloved Pride Of Paddington pub in Paddington (where I also tried to locate the Royal Norfolk Hotel where I had stayed 30 years ago when I went to my first Erasure gig - unfortunately it has now closed), I went back to Heathrow to change into my Yazoo t-shirt (from the Reconnected Tour of 2008 - 10 years ago, another anniversary!) and then back to Hammersmith for the gig.

Other things have changed in London since 1988. Virgin Megastore, at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street which was the place where I headed to straight from Heathrow on that visit 30 years ago has now been turned into a Primark store! (It had closed ages ago anyway).

Now, as I said I was worried about whether I would be able to see anything. "That "Restricted View" on my ticket was worrying me. So my plan, was to be there as soon as the doors opened so I could get a good standing position. They were due to open at 7pm with the support band appearing at 8pm and Erasure taking the stage at around 8:50.

Well, I didn't quite manage to follow that plan, but I got there at around 7:30, so I went straight in (I even forgot to check the merchandise stand) and got upstairs to the circle. I asked one of the staff "Where exactly do I stand with this ticket?" and he told me that I didn't have to go all the way to the back, but I could stand at the side, by the wall. And the view from there was magnificent!
Support band Bright Light Bright Light came on at 8 o' clock. It was nice to hear another synth-pop band as a warm up to Erasure. They were really good and I enjoyed their set even though it was the first time that I listened to them.

They are now offering their support sets as downloads from their BandCamp site and I'm sure going to grab the one from that night. (Useless fact: I remember that the support band in 1988 was called "Zip". I wonder what happened to them...)

After the support set was over, there was one major highlight of that brief period between the two sets: That was when "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell was playing from the speaker and everybody started singing along!
So, finally after a few minutes (and 30 years, let's not forget that) Erasure were finally on stage with "Oh L' Amour". Now, I knew I wasn't going to see the same Andy that I remembered from 1988, jumping around and running all over the stage, but he was still enjoying himself and was more than able to entertain us.

He thanked us for coming on such a cold night. Those were his words and that's when I realized how cold it really was on that weekend in London. I was expecting the big European cold front that I had read about on the weather forecasts (which did indeed come after I left the UK) so just plain old cold temperatures didn't bother me.

I didn't know what to expect from the setlist (I had not checked any previous ones on the internet, I wanted to be surprised.) Any song from "The Innocents" they would play would be an added bonus for me since this was their "new album" when I saw them in 1988 and they had played quite a few of them that night.

And sure enough, I was rewarded, they played all 3 singles from it (even "Chains Of Love") plus "Phantom Bride" one of my favourites.

So what else? "Stop!", "Drama", "Blue Savannah", "Victim Of Love", "Who Needs Love Like That" and my favourite from their 21st century hits "Breathe".

But also "Here I Go Impossible Again" from the same album.

But the biggest surprise for me was another one. A couple of years ago on an Erasure group this question was posted: "What's your favourite Erasure song?" Well, I named two: The first one was of course "A Little Respect" which was special for me because the first time I heard it live was there at The Hammersmith Odeon, before it was even released as a single. The second one was "I Love Saturday".

This one, I never expected to hear it live in 2018. But I did!

There were other surprises as well such as "In My Arms" and even "Sacred" from "The Violet Flame". And as for the latest album, my favourite track from it which I absolutely adore "Just A Little Love" (think about it baby!) and "Love You To The Sky". And even though I was never very keen on the title track "World Be Gone", it's now stuck in my head after hearing it live.

Finally, we all know that Andy Bell is a Debbie Harry fan (maybe as big as me). He has covered Blondie songs before and I believe (at least I want to believe) that he has written "Sunday Girl" for her.

Well, that night he covered "Atomic". Bliss!

And then, with "Sometimes" and "A Little Respect" it was all over.

I got out of the venue and caught the other fans singing "A Little Respect" out in the street (it must have become customary by now).

But then I went back inside because I wanted to get to the merchandise stand, where I got my t-shirt and even the tour programme (after all it was a special gig for me).

Then I got back on the Tube towards Heathrow in order to catch what could only be a short night's sleep since my flight was leaving at 6am. At least I was staying near the airport. On the way back to Athens, Vienna was once again snowy, but I did manage to get home before the cold front which reached all the way west to the UK and covered London in snow. And a few days letter I read in my Erasure newsletter that the gig had been recorded and would be released as a live album! What more could I ask for?
So, not only did I manage to see Erasure live again on the year of the 30th anniversary of the first gig but I was them at the exact same venue I did back then. I love it when a plan comes together!

01. Oh L'Amour
02. Ship of Fools
03. Breathe
04. Mad As We Are
05. Just a Little Love
06. In My Arms
07. Chains of Love
08. Sacred
09. Sweet Summer Loving
10. I Love Saturday
11. Victim of Love
12. Phantom Bride
13. World Be Gone
14. Who Needs Love Like That
15. Take Me Out of Myself
16. Blue Savannah
17. Atomic (Blondie cover)
18. Drama!
19. Stop!
20. Love You to the Sky
21. Always
22. Here I Go Impossible Again
23. Sometimes
24. A Little Respect