05.12.1997 Erasure Universal Amphitheatre, Universal City, CA
This was the first of many road trips to fulfill the concert experience. We drove to Los Angeles with a fairly rigorous timetable and only later found out that Erasure had added a second concert the next night which would have given us a lot more flexibility. Parking at the venue was tricky then because you get certain discounts with your parking pass throughout Universal Citywalk in order to induce people there who were otherwise not going to Universal Studios Themepark. These days, the added incentive is hardly necessary (I’m pretty sure they have taken it away since then), Universal Citywalk is the place to be on a Friday night for the underage set who live in the San Fernando Valley. But mostly by chance, we found out that parking pass enabled us to get movie passes almost for free. With time to kill, we went to see Fifth Element which was a pretty damn good choice. And then afterwards, we wandered directly to the concert venue.
I was too young to catch Erasure through their most popular albums (the last one to chart successfully in the US was released in 1994 – I wasn’t in college yet.) So I never really had a chance to see them tour before this. This concert met every expectation, and the bonus of the whole night was we had damn good seats. Now remember, Ticketmaster in 1997 was almost totally phone based. Their outlets still retained a huge draw on Saturday morning, but their was no advantage unless you lived in the region of the show (we were in Las Vegas) because if you went to an outlet to buy your show for LA, you were inevitably in line with people who were buying a show for Las Vegas. Everytime the sales agent (er, Tower Records employee) had to switch shows, it was major time lost which was bad for the fans who wanted front row seats and bad for the scalpers who wanted front row seats. This is why shows are staggered to begin with, so that the chances of a logjam are minimized (now it is to minimize the web traffic during the peak onsale.)
But phone sales were worse. Infinitely worse. You waited, and you waited and the art was to call before the onsale time and hope that by the time a phone agent was available, the tickets were already onsale, but not for too long.
I bought these tickets after intense negotiation with my friend (due to the fact that we would be taking her car which was new at the time) and it was the end of the day before I finally purchased them and I didn’t know what we were really getting. Seating charts and pricing were just not coordinated as efficiently before the era of the internet ticket sales kicked into fifth gear. We got seats (and of course, would have been better off waiting until the next show was announced had we known) but it turns out, they were good seats. They were upper balcony, but first row so we had an unobstructured eagle-eye view of the stage.
There was no opening act, and Andy Bell did the usual; he opened with a minimal accompaniment and sang his heart out. This time, it was “Reach Out” and then he segued into the familiar vocal intro of “Chains of Love” (“how can I explain when there are few words I can choose?”) with the full group. This was the Cowboy Tour, the set was a miniature saloon and he brought along four back-up singers all in full cowboy regalia.
The four-piece backing vocals gave the songs a distinctly different sound that hasn’t been repeated since. He borrowed them from a choir and there was definitely a gospel flavor that was immediate from “World’s On Fire” to “Save Me Darling” (both from Cowboy). Erasure busted through the hits, and as I’ve come to discover about them, their concerts hardly ever offer any surprise song choices. But that’s okay, because they covered almost the entire Cowboy album, of which I was a big fan, and the rest were radio hits. “Blue Savannah” was reworked as an acoustic campfire song and that version has stuck in my head ever since.
This version of Abba’s “Take A Chance On Me” included the full rap by one of his back-up singers, Jordan Bailey, who also sang a solo on the encore “Don’t Say Your Love Is Killing Me.” Maverick commissioned a live recording from this tour (from the San Francisco date) for video, but never released it. The LA tour date was streamed as real audio, by liveconcerts.com, which is long gone under that format but was available for a couple years after.
Chains Of Love
World’s On Fire
Love To Hate You
Save Me Darling
How Can I Say
A Little Respect
Rock Me Gently
Ship Of Fools
Take A Chance On Me
In My Arms
Don’t Say Your Love Is Killing Me