Spandau Ballet put on insanely good show (seriously) at their first U.S. appearance in 28 years at SXSW

As one of their publicists pointed out to me just as they were taking the stage at the reconstituted Vulcan Gas Company in Austin, I was not even born when Spandau Ballet took their maiden voyage from London to New York to play Danceteria and essentially import England’s New Romantic scene to these shores. It’s been a while since their debut, and it has been almost as long in between U.S. tour stops.

Wednesday night, Spandau Ballet played their first U.S. show in 28 years, and it cannot be overstated: they slayed. In town to promote the forthcoming biopic about their rise to fame in the early ’80s, the band took it upon themselves to re-introduce their tunes to a fresh army of ears. Singer Tony Hadley still sounds remarkably crisp despite his age and his penchant for fine bourbon (he toasted the crowd with Jack Daniels at one point, announcing that he was drinking to our collective health), and the rest of the group clicked like it was ’84 all over again. Special props to Steve Norman, who played the saxophone with a cheeky savagery that belied the sometimes-cheesy arrangements of some of Spandau’s more recognizable songs.

After being introduced by writer and promoter who first brought them to these shores back in ’81, the band tore through a litany of their greatest hits, each one more expertly handled than the last. “Communication” inspired a thrilling sing-along, and “Through the Barricades” (which Hadley identified as his favorite song in the band’s catalog) quietly simmered until it burst with cathartic release. The band seemed genuinely jazzed to be playing on this small stage at this weirdfestival, and the crowd gave it back to them in kind, often slow dancing like it was a sock hop. It was a rare atmosphere for a very youth-centrict fest, and a truly inspired musical moment—not bad for a bunch of fifty-somethings.

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