It’s Erasure, so we’ll skip the introductions, right?! Tonight is the first of three dates in Dame Street’s grand old lady, The Olympia Theatre. It’s a real treat to see them play a series of shows in a smaller, more elegant venue, rather than another gig in the arena down the road. The original run was postponed when Andy Bell took ill in January, but they are back and getting ready for an American tour. The audience sing along enthusiastically with the warm up tape of The Human League and Eurythmics. Their fellow Londoners, Ekkoes, are the ideal support act for the venerable popsters. The quartet are young, attractive, and heavily influenced by tonight’s main act, as well as by Vince Clarke’s former comrades in Depeche Mode, and ‘80s electropop in general.
The theme tune from Tales Of The Unexpected comes over the tannoy and Clarke and Bell emerge onto the fluorescent framed stage; the backing singers on risers either side of the pair. ‘Oh L’Amour’ elicits a rapturous response and Bell apologises for the delay, “A couple of hours is diva behaviour but three weeks is pushing it”. The set spans their entire career: from their debut single, ‘Who Needs Love Like That’, right up to their latest offering, the Brexit and Trump inspired 'World Be Gone'. Their songwriting is remarkably consistent and new tracks like ‘Sweet Summer Loving’ sit seamlessly alongside ‘Blue Savannah’ and ‘Victim Of Love’.
Clarke remains inscrutable as he punches in sounds, and strums a guitar, on a platform two metres above the flamboyant focal point that is Andy Bell. Bell’s voice isn’t as spectacular as it was when he was a young man but he has written the new songs to suit how he sounds now, and the backing singers bolster the ‘80s and ‘90s tunes when needed.
A cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ signals a change of gear and the crowd rise as one in acknowledgement of both the New York discopunks and the legendary pop stars in front of us. As Bell strips down to a skintight onesie, (it’s reassuring to see him strut around confidently with a paunch), ‘Stop!’ sees the energy hit a new high. ‘Love You To The Sky’ and ‘Always’ raise the temperature to summertime levels.
‘Sometimes’ hasn’t aged a day since its initial release in 1986, and raises the roof before the band leave the stage. When they return for the encore of ‘A Little Respect’, it’s on an equal footing, with the quartet at the lip of the stage; Clarke holding his acoustic guitar. In just over 90 minutes, they have raced through over three decades of hits. It’s a noticeably older crowd, many keep their coats on throughout, but the power of the performance, and undeniable genius of the tunes, has everyone out of their seats, singing and dancing. It’s a masterclass in how to be a pop band.