Saturday 10 February 2024

Viva Love

If you were stopped in the street tomorrow and asked to name three bands who dominated the singles charts (and by inference Top of the Pops) in the 80s, your trio would more than likely be culled from Spandau Ballet, the Police, Wham, Duran Duran, Culture Club and, I'm guessing, ABC. 

This afternoon I reached for my most up to dateGuinness Book of British Hit Singles and discovered that ABC had spent nearly 90 weeks on the charts between 1981 & 1990. Pretty impressive, huh? But they weren't just a singles band. Their albums too were packed to the rafters with infectious songs. So why has it taken me forty odd years to finally get round to seeing them perform live. Good question. And one I don't really have a plausible answer to. Anyway, on Tuesday I broke my duck and from a superb vantage point on Row A of the Upper Circle I got to see a masterclass in how to showcase (and compress) 40 years of tune-smithery into a luscious set lasting just over two hours. 

The formula is quite simple really. The first half opened with the Southbank Sinfonia (a 35 piece orchestra conducted by Anne Dudley) teasing us with a five minute classical snapshot of what was to come in the second half. After which the band themselves filed onto stage and proceeded to play the 'ABC Songbook' - When Smokey Sings, The Night You Murdered Love, Be Near Me, Viva Love** The Night You Murdered Love, Ocean Blue et al. 

A twenty minute interval, just time to stretch my legs, grab a white Magnum and its straight into the second half - the main course - Lexicon of Love their groundbreaking debut album played in its entirety in order. You know the songs. By heart, probably. And for those down in in the stalls I could tell this wasn't their first rodeo; although Fry's voice is still holding up, the 2,000 strong crowd made for a great backstop if there were any notes he didn't fancy tackling.

The obligatory encore was as predictable as night following day: because The Look of Love opens side two, and therefore had already been put in to bat, it was pretty obvious Fry would have been run out of town had they not played it AGAIN! 

9/10. (Unlike the pretty rubbish photo I took on my phone.)  

ABC - Viva Love (2016)

* 1991!
** As you can see from the above video not only do we see flashbacks to 1980s Martin Fry but he also does a cameo 'Hitchcock' contemporary cameo.

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