By BeBe Sweetbriar www.BeBeSweetbriar.com
They were apart of the second British invasion bringing to America their New Romantic fashion and their music of soul, funk, jazz and synth-pop mixture which included stateside hits like True, Gold, and Only When You Leave. Spandau Ballet was one of the most successful bands of the 1980s with ten Top Ten singles and five Top Ten albums in the U.K. Tony Hadley’s smooth vocals over the sophisti-pop sound created by the musicianship of band mates Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, John Keeble and Steve Norman amassed a sound that became as distinctive as their band name. But with only a few small concert tours, and even viewer television appearances, in America, the band had a bad break up after 11 years of success. “We had a pretty acrimonious fallout that is pretty well documented,” said Tony Hadley. “It wasn’t good.”
After much “soul searching”and fan prodding, Spandau Ballet reunited in 2009 ceremoniously earning the Best Comeback Award at the Virgin Media Awards after a sold-out world tour and the release of U.K. Top Ten Album Once More. “ As far as I was concerned, we were never going to get back together ever again,” Hadley said about Spandau Ballet’s break up. Tony credits a “ tremendous ground-level support from the fans” to the band’s successful reunion. However, the long awaited reunion has been become more like a series of Cher’s Farewell Tours. After the band’s well received return to live performance an studio recording, their new togetherness took another hiatus for another 4 years. “I always said that what would sort of be nice, like Phil Collins and Genesis really, every now and again we get back together and have a good time and remember the old times, and then we go off and do our own thing,” explains Hadley. True (pun intended) to form, 2014 brought the band back with yet another greatest hits compilation album, The Story – The Very Best of Spandau Ballet, sprinkled with three new songs, and a new documentary Soul Boys of the Western World which follows band during their 1980s heyday. Thankfully for their fans worldwide, including America, Spandau Ballet embarks on a Soul Boys of the Western World Tour which kicks of January 23 in San Francisco touring U.S. through February before heading throughout the rest of world ending the tour in September. It has been almost 30 years since the band has toured America.
“We had a pretty acrimonious fallout that is pretty well documented,” said Tony Hadley. “It wasn’t good.”
Spandau Ballet’s highly anticipate return to the U.S. was announced in a couple of promotional appearances stateside including a well received live performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “…..it felt great being on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show because it had been 28 years and we were thankful anyone even cared,” expressed Hadley. “We didn’t expect the reaction we got.” With 80s music seemingly always apart of a retro resurgence, this North American tour will have Spandau Ballet in front of audiences of not only die hard fans of old, but also a large crop of new fans that weren’t even born when their big hit True was even released.
I had the great pleasure of speaking with bands lead singer Tony Hadley while he was in England preparing with the band for their long awaited return to the U.S., and we visited the band’s fall out period, their 2009 reunion, the new documentary and album, and their U.S. regrets.
BeBe: Everyone in the States is very excited that you guys (Spandau Ballet) are coming to tour here.
Tony Hadley: I know, it should be good actually. We are looking forward to coming over (from the UK). We haven’t played the States in so long. It’s ridiculous!
BeBe: It’s crazy, I know. The Soul Boys of the Western World Tour is your return to North America in about what, 30 years?
Tony Hadley: Yeah, it must be 28 years. It’s crazy. But the thing is we’ve been split up for quite some time, for about 20 years.
BeBe: Well, if you weren’t a band for 20 years, I guess we can’t really hold (your absence) against you.
Tony Hadley: We had a pretty acrimonious fallout that is pretty well documented. It wasn’t good. But we got back together again in 2009. We finally realized our differences and it’s all good.
BeBe: What was the catalyst that made you guys get back together because you were all doing your own things after the break up. Gary and Martin (Kemp) were into their acting careers (Gary Kemp may be most remembered by fans in the U.S. for his role in Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard film). You were doing some solo recording work and even some stage stuff including a West End revival of Chicago. So what made you all say, hey let’s give this another go? A 20 year break is a long time.
Tony Hadley: Well, the fallout was real bad. We ended up in court and it wasn’t very pleasant. As far as I was concerned, we were never going to get back together ever again. It was really John Keeble (drums) who met with everyone in the band with the realization that what we had was really good. For me to meet with Gary…..I mean we were the two big fighters in the band in a way. We fell out badly. It took me 6-months of soul searching whether or not one, did I ant to meet with him, and two, could I face going back on the road again and getting back together. I think what happened was there was tremendous ground-level support from the fans, and then the realization that carrying around all that anger and baggage wasn’t very helpful. It was ruining us. It takes a lot of energy to carry that around. Then there was eventually a rumor (started by BBC’s Jonathan Ross) that went out that there was a possibility that the band was going to get back together again. It was a joke really, but all of a sudden the news and the fans got all excited. We then realized that if we were big enough and strong enough and grown-up enough, we could get back together again. In the final meeting between me and Gary, we had our issues, we both said what we needed to say, shook hands and had a couple of pints of beer in hopes that we could make this work again. Very, very English!
“….. the next time out, we’ll definitely have a new album.”
BeBe: You talked about your fans’ response to the rumor being big part in band getting back together. Their hunger for your music never died. Not only true (no pun intended) through think and thin fans of days of old, but now you have a crop of new fans that basically weren’t even around during your heyday. Is that all surprising to you after 20 years apart?
Tony Hadley: It’s kind of nice! This whole so-called 80s been going on so long, I can’t tell you. What is interesting is we knew die hard fans would come along, but theirs these young kids that have been listening to their Mom’s old records. I mean why do I love Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett? Because my Mom and Dad played their records. It’s a similar thing. So, there is a whole sort of new audience out there as well. Getting back together in 2009 was great fun, and we had a great time, and we did get rid of all the anger and the angst, but after that we just went back to our solo projects. I went back o touring with orchestras and stuff like that. I always said that what would sort of be nice, like Phil Collins and Genesis really, every now and again we get back together and have a good time and remember the old times, and then we go off and do our own thing. It kind of seems the way it’s working. The last time we were together was nearly 4-5 years go and here we are kicking off a world tour in the States. It’s nice and much easier.
BeBe: Tony, that commentary saddens me a bit because it sounds like we won’t be getting a new album of completely new music. You’ve had a few new songs on 2009’s Once More album and of course on your latest album The Story-The Very Best of Spandau Ballet ( This Is The Love, Steal, and Soul Boy). I was hoping that I’d get 12 new tunes with this reunion.
Tony Hadley: I will be honest with you, we spent so much time, energy on the film (the documentary Soul Boys of the Western World) we really couldn’t do a new album. The documentary took a lot of time and effort to put together. It was a monster achievement for us. So we didn’t have the time to put together a new album. When we go out again after this tour through September 2015, and when we get back together in how many years after that it is, we have to do a new album. We have to sit down and make the time to write some new songs and do a 10-12 track brand new album.
BeBe: I’m so glad to hear that!
Tony Hadley: So, the next time out we’ll definitely have a new album.
BeBe: You did some promotional appearances here in the States in the later part of 2014 not only to promote the greatest hits album The Story but also to promote the Soul Boys of the Western World Tour. It was great watching your performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Even by just watching on TV I could feel the energy of the crowd. It has been a long time since you’ve been in front of an American audience, how did it feel performing in front of such an appreciative audience?
Tony Hadley: It felt great! First off it felt great being on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show because it had been 28 years and we were thankful anyone even cared. I mean when we arrived in the afternoon for sound check, there were already fans lined up. We could hear all this screaming and I said “One Direction must be around. Where are they?”. Then we realized they were all there screaming for us. Okay, this is nice! We didn’t expect the reaction we got. John Keeble says in the film ‘that I wanted a better ending (for the band)’, and I think the fans wanted a better ending as well. Nobody wants to see the band they grew up listening to, made love to, get back together to kick themselves all over the place. So, I think from the fans point of view, it’s a tremendous relief that we got back together.
BeBe: It’s interesting because sometimes when bands get back together after a long absence, it’s hard for the fans to get used to their new look and new sound as the band has matured But, you guys were wearing suits when you performed back in the days of the New Romantics period. You were fashion icons in the 80s and you still got that going on. And, you sound the same. That’s what is so amazing!
Tony Hadley: Yes, (we) do still sound the same. I can’t sound like anyone else but Tony Hadley. The band has a very distinctive way of playing. John Keeble to Gary to Steve (Norman) to Martin. The first time we got together after 20 years in the studio in 2009, as soon as we started playing, our first song was I’ll Fly For You, it instantly started to sound like Spandau Ballet. It didn’t sound like a tired or old version, it sounded like Spandau Ballet. It’s kind of weird, I mean, I don’t think we’ve aged too badly. That’s a bit of a shock sometimes. But, when it all comes down to it, we all love music, and we’re probably getting along better now then we have in years. We laugh, joke and (have) no pressures. The only pressures we have is we want to do a good show and sing and perform well.
BeBe: So many of your fans here in the States never got a chance to see you perform live back in the day, so the fact you still got it when they have the chance to see you now is really great.
Tony Hadley: e didn’t come into the States as often as we should have done. We only made 2-3 little tours. The States is such a massive country. When you go there you have to prove you can carry it. There are so many great bands and musicians already in the States. They need you to go out and prove you can cut it live, and we didn’t do enough of that in America, and that’s a bit of a regret.
BeBe: After you leave the States on this world tour where are you headed?
Tony Hadley: We’ll be off to Italy, and then a big arena tour with 13 shows in the U.K., and then different places in Europe. We’re also looking at Hong Kong and Taipei. I’ve never been to China before. And then (there’s) South America.
Spandau Ballet kicks of their Soul Boys of the Western World Tour on January 23 at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. For ticket information go to www.spandauballetstore.com/spandauballet/Tour-Tickets/
SOUL BOYS OF THE WESTERN WORLD TOUR – NORTH AMERICA DATES
1/23 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theatre
1/24 Los Angeles, CA Wiltern Theatre
1/25 Los Angeles, CA Wiltern Theatre
4/25 Chicago, IL House of Blues
4/27 Toronto, ONT Massey Hall
4/28 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
4/30 Boston, MA House of Blues
5/1 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre
5/2 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
5/3 Westbury, NY Theatre at Westbury
Spandau Ballets new album The Story – The Very Best of Spandau Ballet is available on iTunes and Amazon.com