words and pictures by Peter Nicholson.
Although I’d like to be thought to be far too young, I clearly remember the Summer of 1979 and hearing “Are Friends Electric” for the first time. It was arguably the birth of mainstream appreciation of synth-based music. It sprang from the “New Wave” movement of that era which then went from strength to strength.
For those of us that remember those days, the list of bands who adopted the often referred to as Synth-pop style, included some who went on to embody the high-water mark of the genre. Bands like Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark and Japan. Among the chart toppers of that time was Blancmange.
Originally a duo from Harrow, Neil Arthur (Vocals) and Stephen Luscombe (keyboards) formed the band in 1979. As well as releasing three studio albums in the 80’s, they enjoyed single success with “Blind Vision” “Waves” and, the most well known of their hits, “Living on the Ceiling”.
In 1986, the duo parted amicably, and, apart from a couple of brief reunion periods, Neil has continued to perform and record alone as Blancmange.
I saw Blancmange last year at the Brook in Southampton, and I returned last night (November 5) for a repeat performance.
I’m always happy when I’m heading to The Brook. This iconic venue in Portswood, Southampton, has seen so many huge artists grace its stage. For me, it’s the perfect balance between small venues and the impersonal huge ones. The high stage and balcony seating mean everyone is afforded a great view, and the sound system is the envy of venues with twice its capacity!
The crowd started to build as Rodney Cromwell took to the stage as the support act. It seemed a fairly slow start to the show, but the crowd soon warmed to his music, his humour and style. It was great to see Rodney at the merch stand immediately after his set to greet fans and “press the flesh”. A vital part of any gig that some artists still, inexplicably, choose to ignore.
Right on cue, Blancmange took to the stage. Neil, dressed in a suit, had the cool confident swagger of a man who’s done it countless times before, but who was obviously enjoying himself as much as ever. No more so as when, with a wry smile, he introduced the song “Last Night I Dreamt I Had a Job”.
Joining Neil on stage was Liam Hutton on percussion and Chris Pemberton on keyboards. I was particularly pleased to see Liam play live percussion on drum pads and kick pads. The electronic sound of the rhythm parts were superb as they drove each track. Chris’ keys were outstanding as he worked his way around three keyboards stacked in front of him.
The lights at the Brook are always amazing (especially from my gig-photography perspective) but tonight the multi-coloured and perfectly timed light show added a huge part to the show. Credit to the lighting engineer.
Neil smiled and chatted to the audience between songs and left everyone in this amazing venue feeling like they were part of the show. Even the crowd on the balcony were included in the chat. This was a consummate and experienced professional musician at work. He retained his modesty and knew the value of involvement of his fans.
If electronic music is your thing, and you get chance to catch Blancmange live, I’d suggest you take it. This genre is best served “live” in my opinion.
- In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit: https://www.patreon.com/incommonsoton