Last time I saw Tony Hadley IRL (hey I’m old but I’m up with the TikTok talk) it was 1985 and the venue was the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Centre. Spandau Ballet, the band he famously fronted, were touring Australia to promote their album Parade. I was 15 and it was my first time attending a show featuring an international touring act. In my mind it was probably in the top 5 of my best nights ever up to that point in my life. My friends and I wormed our way to a front row possie and screamed along with all the other 15 year old girls that made up the majority of the crowd. Fast forward to 2022 at the Palais and all those 15 year old girls are now 53 and still screaming and swooning along with the now 62 year old Tony Hadley.
Opening the night’s entertainment was Australian country music superstar Amber Lawrence. Rather an odd pairing of genres given that Hadley is iconic in the New Romantic music history books, but this self confessed former certified practicing accountant did more than hold her own with his crowd. Lawrence established the unspoken theme for the evening through her songs which in my interpretation was live your dreams and there’s always a piece of our teenage selves ready to peek back out again.
When Tony Hadley stepped out on stage with his 5 piece band (that included Adam Wakeman, son of Rick, on keys), he made it clear from the outset that this gig was going to be about giving the people what they want ie the hits of Spandau Ballet. Opening with Instinction from the 1982 album Diamond then straight into the dramatic pop of Highly Strung from 1984’s Parade, the album that saw Spandau Ballet swap their avant-garde arty fans for screaming teenage girls, Tony Hadley was here to entertain.
Never one to hide his political conservatism, it was no surprise that Hadley took time to thank the Australian fans for their condolences on the Queen’s death. A working class boy from Islington, he went on to tell a few nostalgic stories. My favourite story of the night was the insight into the video wars between Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran during the height of the MTV era in the days when record companies gave out tons of money to their artists to essentially party in the most exotic corner of the globe they could think of. While Simon Le Bon was posing on the bow of a yacht sailing around Antigua filming the video for Rio, Hadley and the Spandau Boys decided they would go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans to film the video for their single I’ll Fly For You, which he then segued into perfectly.
While there were the expected lesser known songs on the set list from a solo album or two, they didn’t sound altogether out of place along side early, edgier classics such as To Cut a Long Story Short and Chant Number 1, and the FM radio, pop favourites Round and Round, Through the Barricades and Lifeline. By the time he was ready to close out the set the majority of the 53 year old teenagers were all on their feet and trying to anticipate the opening strains of either True or Gold, the two smash hits that were yet to make an appearance. To the crowd’s delight, the unmistakeable intro to probably Spandau Ballet’s biggest hit, True, rang out through the theatre and although there was no Steve Norman saxophone solo, it was definitely the hit of this show. Of course that left the iconic Gold to close the encore and the entire show. So many smiling, happy people singing along with such enthusiasm and joy was surprisingly the highlight of the show for me because this is what live music is all about – it’s great to have it back!