Our man Keith Goldhanger finds himself at an ABC gig in Norwich and realises that however much he hated them in the ’80s they might just be the saviour of new music now.
What have I ? What have I ? What have I done to deserve this ?
It seems like only last week I was nodding my head to some shouty growling hardcore punk rock trio and it seems like only three days ago I was standing up straight and tapping my toes to another one of those strange Canadian bands (Winnipeg, always from Winnipeg) with lots of equipment, the odd break beat and multi -harmonious vocals.
It feels like only yesterday that I was at a big gay Euro Disco watching some lady with small footwear singing about “taking us to the future” whilst sounding very much like the past and now, on a Saturday night, I’m in a big room, with a lot of people watching AB bloody C.
“Lets all ignore what the decent kids like you and I are usually listening to and go for something that sounds a bit different today shall we…..? A bit retro. A bit pop. A bit nice.”
Except it sounds a bit like Spandau Ballet….
We get an earful of simple drumming and smiley smiley smashy nicey wink at the crowd air punching choruses that don’t deserve the air punching it receives and tunes that you can sing along to after five seconds because you remember them even though they may be thirty years old.
You’re reminded of those jobs you had as a teenager which were easy jobs to do except you hated the bloody music in the background because the same tunes were being played ten times a day and no matter what anyone says, anything forced down your throat like that by those (too bloody cheerful) DJ’s annoyed you.
ABC were the enemy (the musical enemy, not the band from Coventry).
They were the band the punk rockers around my neck of the woods detested and they had hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit and they soundtracked the ’80s whether we liked it or not (we didn’t).
A Euro Disco one night in London and an ’80s pop group in Norwich does not make me a bad man though (I’m not including seeing CHVRCHES this week either or this argument could go on forever)
Oh no no no ….
It’s a phase I’m going through. It’s how the planets have aligned this week and it’s the path I’ll tread and a destination I’ll seek out whether I’m in London, New York, Paris or Norwich.
Norwich; another city like Liverpool. Full of regional cliches we won’t go into especially as my guide to this city also happens to be a DJ on the local community radio station called “Future Music”. It’s a good show, it’s called “Planet of Sound”, he plays what I send him and he does his best to put on gigs by bands the likes of me take for granted in the smoke and that sometimes struggle to escape the capital and he’s one of many cogs in the wheel that keep the kids in this city entertained.
I reckon there’s one or two of them around here this evening.
The Open is a place that accommodates everyone.
There are teenagers in the daytime sporting their My Chemical Romance t shirts playing table football, climbing up one of those walls that are designed for such a purpose and generally having somewhere to go that’s better than a bus shelter or safer than playing beside a local river.
People in suits are probably present sitting around tables holding marker pens and doing things with flow charts on flip charts during the daytime as well and in the evening on sporadic nights its a 1400 capacity venue that hosts those bands that people might otherwise have to take the two hour train ride into London to see.
Or just stay in at night.
Or go to one of those night clubs down the road from the station that probably doesn’t cater for live music.
I’m here to watch it all tick along and tick along slowly it does, and so it should. The staff arrive mid morning, all bright and cheerful even though it could be the third or forth consecutive day they’ve been in attendance.
From the preparation of the the cosy back rooms so that the evening’s star attraction Martin Fry can sit comfortably with a choice of his five a day at arm’s length to the last piece of litter in the bin liner fourteen hours (give or take a couple) later and the final switching of the light switch rendering this big room suddenly dark and silent, these people are dedicated to the end.
Now …… to head this item a review on ’80s pop stars ABC is a bit misleading. Some of us didn’t like them then and won’t like them now.
They play Shoot That Poison Arrow (a big hit, if you didn’t realise, otherwise even I wouldn’t recognise it) twice and on both occasions, in different locations inside the venue, I am sure he’s pointing at me when he asks who broke his heart and follows it with an accusing pointy finger singing “you did, you did” (it wasn’t me.)
He’s aged very well has Martin Fry. He get’s heckled for not having his gold jacket on and spends the first four songs attempting to undo his top button whilst singing, smiling and occasionally pointing and winking to the happy crowd.
They sound like Spandau Ballet (have I already mentioned that?) and they sound like ABC.
However, it has to be pointed out that there’s a huge crowd here tonight. It’s like a wedding reception without young children running around.
Everyone seems to be sporting their best freshly ironed shirts (or blouses I’m reliably informed) and nice “casual” new blue jeans.
Drinks are being drunk, there’s a lot of dad dancing going on and a lot of mum dancing too and there’s people happy to sit at the side and watch without standing on their weary legs. There’s even a one man mosh pit (I enjoyed watching him for five minutes) and a couple of people wearing fancy dress ’80s garb.
Couples take pictures of each other at arms length and groups huddle together during the new songs to take pictures with each other. We get an ’80s disco to round off the evening and through the powerful digital speakers we get to hear all those other songs we tried to ignore back then sounding probably as good as they did to the artists recording them at the time as opposed to the crackling medium wave radio we were used to hearing them on.
This is far too easy to knock and mock but I’ll stop that right now.
The fallout from this kind of event can be seen just by looking at the posters outside the venue that boast forthcoming attractions from John Grant the following night, Georgie Fame (another night) and Lucy Spraggan (in the small room – if you don’t know who she is then you won’t care but her forthcoming show has sold out) and Public Service Broadcasting (if you don’t know who this is then go and find out) also a forthcoming sell out in the 300 capacity club room adjoining the main room. This evening it also allows support band and new up-and-coming-pop-darlings Crystal Bats an opportunity to entertain the early arrivals.
It’s a big building and gives locals opportunities to see their favourite artists whether young or old. It provides space for bored teenagers to interact and swap CDs containing their own favourite artists and it caters for such a cross section of musical genres that you realise after a few days here that in order for all of this to tick by week in week out (day in day out) we need the ABCs of this world to exist, and we need them to do their stuff to keep everyone happy.
Which they have obviously achieved this evening.
And once that happens we can then wander down (if we happen to be in Norwich) on a wet Tuesday night to see things called JOYLAND, ARROWS OF LOVE, ANTLERED MAN, and all the other cool stuff that is usually stuck in East London screaming for a day trip to another city and another audience.
Which can’t be a bad thing surely ?
So next time you’re watching whatever it is you watch on a Sunday morning on Channel Four and begin to moan and moan and scream and moan and tut heavily at the telly about what’s being piped into your ears , then just remember:
1) you shouldn’t and don’t have to be listening to things in this day and age that you think are crap and
2) if this stuff being peddled by the telly and radio is getting to a very large audience then just think, in another 30 years time when One Direction or JLS or Girls Aloud (or whatever those other bands are called that are on the front of teenage magazines) realise that stacking shelves in Tescos isn’t for them and decide to reform the band…..it might just help indirectly support the latest dubstep speed metal neu folk psychotic screaming electronic soul band that you’ll be listening to whilst driving around town or dancing to with all your mates high on drugs* at five o’clock in the morning.
*if that’s the sort of thing you see yourself doing in 2043 …..well….maybe without the drugs.