Four of the five original members of Modern English reunited this summer and performed a string of dates across the U.S., simultaneously celebrating the past and supporting the new album Soundtrack (QRO review). For three of the four it was the first time playing together since 1986. The line-up features founders Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar/vocals), Michael ‘Mick’ Conroy (bass/vocals) and Stephen Walker (keyboards), as well as Steven Walker (guitar) and Ric Chandler (drums). On Thursday, September 9th at Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR, the band started the night with “Dawn Chorus” from 1982’s After the Snow, eliciting shrieks from the audience. If it weren’t for three new tracks played midway through the night, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this is Modern English circa 1984.
In keeping with After The Snow, the band played “Someone’s Calling”, the title track, and “Tables Turning”. Modern English certainly could have turned this night into a greatest hits concert, but instead showed their 4AD roots by reaching back to their more experimental tracks. From their debut, Mesh And Lace, they played the dark, manic “Swans On Glass” and the pick-sliding Joy Division-like menace of “Black Houses”.
The three new tracks (“Soundtrack”, “Blister” and “It’s OK”) fit nicely into their set and it was evident that the audience embraced them. The night of course needed a couple hits, so they played the one-two pop punch of “Hands Across The Sea” and “I Melt With You”. The ubiquitous nature of “I Melt With You” has not dimmed the audience’s love of this song one bit. Modern English ended the night with their standard closer, the epic mesh of “Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust”. With the energy that the band exhibited tonight, one can hope that these founding members can keep it together because Modern English proved they certainly aren’t finished.