Spandau Ballet

David Spencer | Monday, 12 October 2009

Spandau Ballet

It's a rainy October day, and DMG is tackling the largest industrial estate inside the M25 in the hope of getting an interview with one of the hottest artists of the moment. But this isn't a group of teenagers with guitars, or an Amy Winehouse soundalike, this band first got together 30 years ago, and were last in the same recording studio together, 20 years ago.

Spandau Ballet are rehearsing for a near sell out UK and Ireland tour, that even six months ago seemed unlikely to ever happen. While not quite on the Pink Floyd scale of bitterness, the demise of Spandau was fraught with angst. A court case over song rights took place and it seemed the Kemp brothers would never rekindle the band with messers Hadley, Norman and Keeble.

But last autumn Gary Kemp secured the final piece in the jigsaw; "I thought about this for about 5 years, it was just convincing everyone at the same time. Then I met Tony last autumn". From then the wheels started to move, but they came off the rails for Gary and Martin dramatically earlier this year with the death of their parents in a short space of time. "I am blown away playing with this band, it's a great way to spend my mid-life crisis. This started as a year of tragedy for me, thank god the band were there, because this has been the other family in my life and they were there at the right time" says Gary.

Of all the revivals or comebacks, whatever you want to call them, Spandau Ballet's has received the most coverage and interest. Whether you put this down to a brilliant marketing campaign or the strength of their back catalogue what you can't argue is the sell out concert dates. Fans have gone for their reunion tour in a big way. Now there's an album and new material too. The Spandau bandwagon is seemingly unstoppable.

"We were gobsmacked" says Steve Norman of the sales of tickets for their shows. "Even young kids like us, Gold is a student song, it's played in the bars" says Tony Hadley, "and taxi drivers and white van men have been telling me it's great to see you guys back".

Gary Kemp's summing up of the reaction is pertinent, touching on the very reason the band ended up in court; "We didn't destroy the name by dragging it on into the nineties, the line up never changed and it wasn't taken on one of those god awful This is the 80s revival shows, that's why it's been received so well."

It might help that the 80s is fashionable again too; "when you hear people like The Killers you think they probably new a Spandau tune or two" says Keeble. But don't expect the clothes of the era to return; "What we're not going to do is this 80s theme park thing. We'll look good but not the same clothes as back then" assures Martin Kemp.

To get the recording underway, the band had a summer bonding session at Hook End, and this seems to have created an extraordinary buzz, not just in the media, but with the guys themselves. All of them look in very good health for 50 year old musicians. Only John Keeble, the eldest, wears the look of someone who's lived a bit too much, while Tony Hadley carries slightly more weight then his colleagues. But judging by a Jonathan Ross TV appearance, his voice hasn't lost that soulful feel that once had him described as a Sinatra like pop star.

The band's first top 10 hit was in 1980, when 'To Cut A Long Story Short' reached number 5. It's one of their best tracks too, and has undergone a severe re-working for the new album; "I hope you like what we've done with it" says Keeble, "it's my personal favourite on the new album". "It's barking" adds Hadley. Other tracks have been re-worked too, and there are two new songs.

The band promise a greatest hits tour, and their back catalogue allows for little flab. "It would have been easy to do a simple back drop, but we wanted to put on a show for people and we've spent a lot of money making it look good" says Hadley excitedly.

After this Spandau Ballet embark on a tour around Europe and the rest of the world, before returning next summer. A question from DMG about Glastonbury is greeted with glances and silence. That call from Michael Eavis has probably already taken place.

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