03.08.2003 Erasure Beacon Theater, New York City, NY
Opener: Cooler Kids
Erasure are an entertaining live act that eschew typical eighties nostalgia. In fact, their two most popular hit songs in the US were released in 1992 (“Take a Chance on Me”) and 1994 (“Always”) but they are more fondly remembered for just about any of their albums in the 1980′s. Which brings us to 2003. The audience in the Beacon Theater on this crisp March evening was an older crowd. Had that hitting forty-gay man’s theme. People who can afford to dress in expensive casual, who dined somewhere in New York that probably catered to their discretionary income. My sister and I opted for a diner, something a little more skank than swank, but the food portions were huge and it was damn good. It was also a block away from the venue because we had spent most of the day wandering around Manhattan and needed to park ourselves without too much additional punishment to our bodies.
The cold drew us into the venue early, and they were evidently doing a sound check because Erasure pounded the walls as we stood barricaded in the lobby. A younger guy by himself was sitting on a bench singing along.
In 2003, Erasure has more or less perfected their life act, and it doesn’t change much in style even as they adapt the substance. They tend to play a fairly boring set list. Pick the top 15 hits of the last 15 years, sprinkle in a rare Andy Bell favorite and add some songs from the current album they are promoting. In this case, the album was Other People’s Songs – cover versions that were picked, for the most part, because Andy Bell always wanted to be a torch singer.
In every concert of the last 10 years, the show starts with a lone Andy Bell singing, minimally accompanied, an Erasure version of a torch song. During the Wild Tour, it was “Piano Song,” during the Cowboy Tour, it was “Reach Out” and during this tour it was “Mad As We Are” from, actually, the last album of original material, Loveboat. But half way through the tour, in fact, on the previous day, “Mad As We Are” got dropped replaced by “Alien” from the same album. They were trying to speed up the pace of the setlist, and concurrently, their new single “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” was released, so that also ended up in the set. Both distinct improvements.
The stage was set up like a living room with a writing desk and a divan and a phonograph. Andy Bell, dressed in a gauzy black gown, his head covered in a veil and looking very much in mourning, plays a record which, is the accompaniment for “Alien.” But this song selection, and the following one, “In My Arms,” was where 2003 caught up them, most of the audience want to hear the stuff from the 80′s. When the third song was “Blue Savannah” the audience leaped as one from their seats and fantastic night of bleeps and beats kept them their until the very end, dancing and frolicking the aisles.
Over the course of the evening, Andy Bell simply stripped off parts of his outfit, like some gay cabaret, and he looks fantastic. He had his fat period and it is over and done with. He has an amazing figure and we got to see most of it before the night was half over. Vince Clarke programmed enough variations into the arrangement of their standard hits to keep them from getting stale. This tour out, a lot of songs ended with Andy Bell’s vocals dropping out and leaving the backing singers’ vocals to fade out with the music.
I could probably do without the covers package, but the two singles, “Solsbury Hill” and “Make Me Smile,” were fantastic, upbeat renditions. I could definitely do without the torch songs, “Piano Song” and “Goodnight,” that ended the concert on a sluggish note and the first encore number “True Love Ways” was sung as an acoustic ballad. “Stop” is a classic energetic closer, but the damage was done.
In My Arms
Ship of Fools
Chains of Love
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Love to Hate You
Breath of Life
You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling
Victim of Love
A Little Respect
Rock Me Gently
Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)
True Love Ways (acoustic)