Over three decades and seventeen albums, Erasure’s popularity has risen and fallen in waves. Some years, impassive synth king Vince Clarke and effervescent vocalist Andy Bell have been big enough to fill the Brighton Centre. Other times they return here to the Dome, site of their 1987 concert film Live At The Seaside. Touring current album ‘World Be Gone’, the size and enthusiasm of Erasure’s crowd tonight shows they’ve retained a very loyal fanbase, or that will never tire of a huge singalong to the hits.
As the TV theme to Tales Of The Unexpected plays, the stage lights up in an arrangement of neon lit cubes. Silhouetted behind curtains, singers Valerie Chalmers and Emma Whittle dance and mimic the show’s titles as Clarke climbs up onto his towering keyboard podium. With a paint-spattered jacket above and angularly patterned stockings below, Bell settles on a simple saloon chair to croon the plaintive intro to early single ‘Oh L’amour’.
As Bell moves on to sing smoothly with the crowd through ‘Ship Of Fools’ it’s an obvious clue that it’s their initial run of singles collected on the best-selling ‘Pop! The First 20 Hits’ that remain their most vital work for many, regardless of the quality of the songs that followed. From the vocal gymnastics of 1994’s ‘I Love Saturday’, through the dizzying embrace of ‘Sacred’ to the uplifting beauty of ‘World Be Gone’, there are plenty that maintain Clarke and Bell’s high standards.
With the reticent Clarke staying in the shadows as always, it’s Bell who must carry the crowd and he does so with unrelenting good humour and showmanship. With a joke, an anecdote or a piece of self-deprecating banter between every song, we could fill a whole review by simply quoting him. Let’s just say that his enthusiasm for Pride’s Britney Spears booking this summer (“And I hope you’re all looking forward to a million pound Council Tax bill next year”) won us over easily.
It’s around an hour into the show that things step up yet another notch. The tumbling piano of ‘Blue Savannah’ rings out with the entire hall joining Bell in full voice, followed straight after by a thundering cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’, the boisterous ‘Drama!’ and banging Christmas smash ‘Stop!’ Everybody hollers along with abandon.
There’s a little dip with lesser known singles ‘Love You To The Sky’, ‘Always’ and ‘Here I Go Impossible Again’, although there are fans down the front who know the words to the lot, before the show climaxes with long-ago breakthrough hit ‘Sometimes’, still the musical equivalent to swirling round the fairground waltzers on your summer holidays.
With just space for a short encore, it’s inevitably time for ‘A Little Respect’, Clarke taking his acoustic guitar down to the stage with Bell and friends for the one Erasure single that’s become bigger than the band itself, a song that thousands can sing along to without knowing or caring who it was originally by. And ultimately that is the mark of a truly great pop group.
Brighton Dome, Monday 19th February 2018
Words by Stuart Huggett