Friday, November 04, 2011
ERASURE Camden Roundhouse 25th October 2011
Sono Luminous / Always / Just When I Start To Break It All Down / Blue Savannah / Fill Us With Fire / Drama / Be With You / Ship Of Fools / Chorus / Breathe / Victim Of Love / Alien / Love To Hate You / I Lose Myself / Whole Lotta Love / Breath Of Life / Chains of Love / Sometimes / A Little Respect / Oh L'Amour / Stop
At 50, Erasure are still the same. It's surprising really. How little they have changed since they started. The shows are still the same. Admittedly, it's taken me twenty five years to actually get round to seeing them. And I don't feel as if I've missed anything.
Some bands are the same, always, unchanging. AC/DC, for one. U2's recent tours have always had a back end that feels the same for the past 20 years : “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “One”, “Where The Streets Have No Name”, and “With or Without You” have occupied roughly the same setlist places for the past two decades.
With Erasure, it is roughly the same,: a moment where the band ceased to evolve beyond a certain template, and where a body of work stayed on the cusp of being ever more refined instead of going anywhere. 1994 was probably the year zero – no longer a touring concern, retiring from live appearances for half a decade, and overtaken by the obselence of the genre, Erasure became ghosts between 1992 and 1997 : two studio albums tumbled out without a live show to their name, and coupled with a best of, and the rise of Oasis, made their work dated by the mid Nineties.
Especially when the albums became patchier and less essential : most of them aren't represented here, with only a handful of songs - “Alien”, “Always” and “Breathe” - dating from the twenty year period between 1991 and 2011. The stalwarts that bulk up most of their set are all 20 years old :and the ones that appeal to the very particular audience that Erasure share with similar acts such as The Human League and, to a lesser extent, Pet Shop Boys : the disco MILF. We – and they – frug and bop on a cold Tuesday night in Camden to the strains of such symphonies as “Blue Savannah”, “Drama”, “Ship Of Fools”, “Chorus” , “Breathe”, “Victim Of Love”, “Love To Hate You”, “Chains of Love”, “Sometimes”, “A Little Respect”, “Oh L'Amour”, “Stop”. And with hits like that, who needs Who Needs Love Like That? It's the same old set Erasure have been playing for long over two decades, and, apart from the haircuts, nothings changed.
Vince Clarke stands behind his Apple Mac, mounted inexplicably on a plastic dragon, and presses a button. Drinks a bottle of green German beer. Occasionally he picks up an acoustic guitar for the illusion of variety and plays chords I cannot hear to keep the rhythm – and himself – interested. Visually it's a dry set, made of lights, two dancers / backing vocalists in angel wings, and a singer preening and laughing. As a front man, Andy Bell – two hip replacements and still rockin' – is a a cross between a man blessed with a great voice and some semblance of art, and a highly bemused, curious jester playing with the world for their own amusement. Hard sometimes, it is, to imagine him as the punk/disco-fan in the ash end of the three day week in a hard-bitten world. But sometimes you put on the slap, and bare your teeth in a smile, and show the world it has not yet dimmed your shine.
Not that this really shows : the lyrics have barely moved on from a quarter century ago – still about boys and girls and love and loss and the usual problems, as well as, striking couplets about eurodisco which, surely at the age of 49, one must think you've grown out of late nights, nightclubs, and hard sex come easy with someone new, and where has been the progression and the natural evolution to something beyond the recreation, the hedonism, the sense of grappling with life and what it means to be alive. But aside for this, the moments when the set drops into the new material, the audience takes the moment for a text/iPhone/Twitter break before the hits come back in. Oh! Look! It's a song from the Eighties. Let's dance. At the end of it though, it's a gloriously silly pop night out, stuffed with choruses and warbles and dancing and a sense that maybe, just maybe, this whole being alive business isn't that bad at all. A Life In Pop, indeed.