Spandau Ballet were great crusaders of the 1980s British Invasion. They spent the decade wowing and wooing fans on both sides of the pond with their glamorous fashion sense, lushly exotic music videos, and, of course, their string of sumptuous pop hits, especially the ubiquitous prom ballad "True." But then they broke up acrimoniously in 1990. It was the end of an era.
But the '80s are back at Austin, Texas's South by Southwest festival this year. Along with sets by Blondie (whose Deborah Harry made a surprise appearance with obvious successors the Dum Dum Girls this week), Gary Numan, and the Alarm's Mike Peters, plus unexpectedly awesome concert moments like newcomers Hey Marseilles's cover of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart," SXSW 2014 has marked the comeback of the one, the only, Spandau Ballet.
The natty New Romantics officially premiered their excellent documentary, "Soul Boys of the Western World," at the festival on Wednesday afternoon, and when they played their first U.S. gig in 28 years that evening at 6th Street's Vulcan Gas Company, everyone was partying like it was 1986. These were their salad days, again.
The band was in fine form, taking the stage resplendently rocking their sophisticated suits and silvered heads of hair. Lead singer Tony Hadley, cocktail glass in hand, was still giving off a yacht-dwelling, Most Interesting Man in the World vibe and sounding as boomingly authoritative as ever. Nimble, jolly multi-instrumentalist Steve Norman made fans long for that glorious '80s era when every band had a bongo player and a saxophone-wielding sidekick. And every song in the perfectly curated, hits-packed setlist, from the darkly synthy 1981 breakthrough single "To Cut a Long Story Short" to the supremely funky Eurodisco smash "Chant No. 1" to the show-closing double-wallop of "True" and "Gold," had the audience, women and men alike, chanting along.
To cut a long story short, everyone in the club lost their minds. The retro frenzy inside the Vulcan venue can perhaps best be illustrated via the Vines of nearly every song, shot and gushingly captioned by yours truly, scattered throughout this review. I know this much is true: This was an amazing night.