So City of Culture year has been and gone, and what a year it was. From my point of view it meant Jeff Lynne (QRO live review), The Flaming Lips (QRO live review), Ocean Colour Scene (QRO photos) and lots more. The question now is whether or not Hull can continue to attract big names, to the new venue, or the football stadium, or my special favourite Zebedee’s Yard for open-air gigs and, of course, to the amazing Victorian pile that is the City Hall.
Early signs are promising – maybe the City of Culture can do attitude is still around – and we have the likes of Orbital, Chase & Status, and local hero Calum Scott lined up for the summer. The year’s major musical events started out with a sold out show from ’80s pop legends Erasure at the City Hall, on Wednesday, February 7th.
Support came from up and coming nu-disco star Bright Light Bright Light, who was making his second visit to the venue, having played last year’s LGBT rights festival night. He’s got some great catchy songs, a style that’s midway between classic pop and musical theatre, and a nice line in restrained ironic showmanship. Plenty of the crowd at the front was obviously fans already, and it looked like he’s made a few more by the end of his set.
The stage set up for Erasure was a surprise, with the duo separated from each other for most of the show, Andy Bell performing in the narrow space between the front of the stage and a large ziggurat constructed from scaffold and fluorescent tubes, atop of which was Vince Clarke with his keyboards and a guitar. There were two dancers and singers who initially occupy frames, also fluorescently defined, on either side of the stage but their contribution is pretty minimal. All eyes were on Bell, who dominated proceedings by sheer charismatic presence – although Clarke descended from the gods towards the end of the set, it almost seemed like a one-man show.
But what a great show it was. Even though I’ve been playing Erasure tracks all week I’m amazed by the strength in depth in their back catalogue. The set kicked off with an eerily gorgeous “Oh L’Amour” and headed for a climax with “Sometimes” and “Respect”, but along the way were “Stop”, “Drama”, “Blue Savannah” and a variety of “Love” related matters, including “Chains Of”, “Victims Of”, and “Who Needs It Like That”.
Tracks from the new album World Be Gone were interspersed throughout, and on this night’s showing, it’s a strong piece of work. All around the City Hall it was pretty much a non stop dance-a-thon, from the main hall to the steep galleries, and what more perfect way could there be to celebrate some of the most elegant and romantic pop music ever than dancing the night away.
By the time Clarke descended for the last couple of songs, you’d imagine that people would be exhausted, but of course they’re not, and the final “Respect” was a triumphant statement of the power of great pop music to unite people in joy. Fantastic stuff.