Bands don’t come much bigger than Spandau Ballet.
What started as friends forming a band in the school music room snowballed into a new romantic behemoth.
The London-formed five-piece comprising Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Steve Norman and John Keeble have sold over 25 million records and amassed 23 hit singles across the globe since they formed in the late 1970s.
After two decades apart, they’re back together and stronger than ever, says drummer John.
Demand for tracks, such as Gold, True and Through The Barricades, has never waned and the band are back on the road and giving the public what they want.
John says the North East can expect a blend of old and new from their forthcoming set at Newcastle Racecourse on August 28.
“When we sat in the school music room in 1976 we knew we wanted to aim high, but it’s been a really good effort,” he said, looking back at their success.
He added: “We were discussing the other day how there’s very few bands with the original line-up. The only other one we could think of was U2.
“That gives us an authenticity and strength that other bands don’t have. We’ve had our bumps in the road, but it’s made us stronger.
“The set we’re playing has this big list of songs that we’ve played over the years. We’ve recently been playing Confused from 1978 and then we have three new songs which we made with Trevor Horn. It’s a broad church of music. There’s such a lot of different stuff, you’ve got the electro, the soul stuff, the ballads, the stadium rock.
“Our playlist is fantastically rich. At the moment I’m enjoying playing Soul Boy, it opens the show and I know I’m in for a good time.”
Back in the ’80s they cut a dash on the music scene with their slick blend of impeccable tailoring and coiffed barnets that were preened to perfection
They helped to usher in a new era of visually-dominated pop that was highly stylised and John says it was easy to become swept up in the frilly shirts and tuxedos.
“Back in the ’80s we were in the eye of the storm and you’re so busy doing it you don’t realise the effect of the music, the ripples around the world,” he said.
The triple platinum Band Aid disc is the only one I have at home, it’s in my downstairs toilet.John Keeble, Spandau Ballet drummer
“When we play True now, in San Francisco, in Australia, in Newcastle, you look into the audience’s eyes and realise how much it means to people, how much it’s part of the culture. You don’t ever tire of those songs, it just gets sweeter and sweeter. It takes people to a certain moment in their lives and you feel privileged to be able to do that.”
To mark their reunion, the band released Soul Boys of the Western World, a film which charts their influence on music and fashion, while also documenting their fall out.
“From being teenagers in that music room, we then had success, but the story of Soul Boys of the Western World is a story of friendship,” explains John. “We saw the world together and when the wheels came off, we not only lost the band, we lost our friend- ship.
“But we’ve come back stronger, and there’s something relaxed about it, we had that redemption at the end.”
He added: “When we first got back in a room together five, six years ago, it was awkward until I sat behind my kit and we started playing. 25 bars in we were all smiling because there was magic in the air. We’d all done other stuff over the years, but there’s a certain chemistry and synchronicity that makes that Spandau Ballet sound. Five years on from re-forming that sound is even stronger. Then we have Tony Hadley, the voice of a generation.”
Though there may be considerably less eye-liner than there once was, John says touring now hasn’t changed since the band’s hey day.
“It’s not that different touring now as it was then. We still have a backstage rider with plenty of Champagne and Jack Daniels. Touring is hard work, but then you get two hours every night to show off. Your family on tour are the 50 or so people you have travelling with you.
“In the ’80s sometimes your musical ability sometimes get subsumed by your haircut or what shirt you’re wearing. It’s different now, and the reviews have been fantastic.
“We used to play Newcastle City Hall and it’s always been a favourite of mine. The North East’s always a good time and I have some good mates in Durham.
“We’ve done a few of these outdoor gigs, they are different to the arena shows, they don’t have all the bells and whistles, but they have a great outdoor party atmosphere.”
John says their collective passion for music has also stayed the same.
Speaking about the band’s countless highlights over the years, he said: “Live Aid, obviously. At the time we realised we were part of something very special and it changed the face of charity across the world. The triple platinum Band Aid disc is the only one I have at home, it’s in my downstairs toilet.
“But I look forward to all gigs, to the next one, we’ve got some great shows over the summer.”
He added: “It’s about playing drums for me, a lot of kids want fame. I appreciated that if I was a success it would lead to fame and money, but for me it was about the music.
“When I’m in my office, which is behind a kit, is when I’m happiest. It’s instant gratification. You spend hours in a studio, but no one claps. I thrive off that audience reaction.”
•Spandau Ballet will be performing live on the Grandstand Lawns on Friday, August 28, following a packed seven race card at Newcastle Racecourse, in Gosforth.
Tickets for the evening of racing and the Spandau Ballet live performance are priced at £35 per person from Tel. 236 2020 or www.newcastle-racecourse.co.uk.
•We’ve teamed up with Newcastle Racecourse to give away a pair of tickets and a meet and greet with the band, plus two pairs of general admission tickets for the raceday and concert as runner up prizes.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these is a Spandau Ballet hit?
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.
Closing date: July 9.