17 September 2011

Erasure, with Frankmusik, Live

With a career spanning twenty-six years, Erasure sits comfortably as icons in the world of synthpop and new wave. From the quirky “Who Needs Love Like That?” to the socially critical “A Little Respect,” from the all out tongue-in-cheek of “Love to Hate You” to the sentimental “In My Arms,” Erasure is one of those veterans that have stood the test time in spite of being ignored by the vast majority of the mainstream media. This alone is the testament of their craftsmanship and relevance. Tuesday, 13 September 2011, Terminal 5 in New York City – Erasure brought their Tomorrow’s World Tour to The Big Apple, packing the house with one of the most diverse crowds one could ever imagine: young and old, gay and straight, men and women, black and white – a hodgepodge of people who are proud to call themselves Erasure fans.

(Vince Clarke of Erasure)

The evening started with Frankmusik; I have gotten to the point in my musical aesthetics that I may like a band / artist by hearing their music, but I no longer fall giddy-head-over-heels over any band / artist until I see them live – I have fallen. Playing music from his first album, “Complete Me” (2009), and his forthcoming album, “Do It in the AM,” as well as a few covers, Frankmusik is the kind of opening act that all artists should take on the road – though I personally can’t wait to see him perform his own show. Most of the time, opening acts are so inferior to the main act that it is either laughable or the opportunity to head to a bar – rarely do bands travel with artists that can vie to steal the limelight. Such opening acts only help to elevate the overall show, because the main act has to give that much more. And after Frankmusik, Erasure had a tough act to follow. His set included the older track “Better Off As Two” (though I personally had hoped for “Confusion Girl,” I give Frankmusik a lot of credit for including “When You’re Around” – not a track I thought he would play) and new tracks such as “No Bueno” and “Do It in the AM.” He also performed covers in snippets, such as Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” and The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” and even incorporated the music to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”


Frankmusik, at one point, joked about not needing to go the gym since he got to perform every night. The energy of his set was incredible – everyone in sight was dancing away. Delivering what essentially is standard pop music (much like Erasure, an obvious influence on his style), the high energy, catchy lyrics, intelligence, and all around good vibe is infectious with its broad appeal. With a live drummer and keyboardist / vocalist (and the unseen sequencer), this near forty minute set the stage for Erasure to come out and deliver their set of uncompromising pop music. One last thing I have to say is that Frankmusik’s voice was flawless live. As I have argued before, vocalists should not be judged on the range of their voice, but their ability to deliver their music and be emotive, as well as the distinctiveness of their style. Frankmusik definitely has the chops to be one of the best male pop vocalists out there.

(Though there is no live clip available of Frankmusik on this tour, here is the video for “No I.D.” (featuring Colette) from the FrankmusikVEVO YouTube Channel.)

Then Erasure finally graced the stage.

(Andy Bell of Erasure)

Most bands play a high-energy song from their current album to start a show, but that is not what the audience got from Erasure. In one of the most brilliant decisions by the band, the show started with “Sono Luminus” – and the diehard fans were immediately enraptured, for the casual Erasure listener / fan, the second song, “Always,” nailed the opening of the show. From the obscure to the popular, this was musically Erasure’s best opening ever: perfect! Occasionally slipping in new music into the set (only once playing two new songs in a row), this was a musical journey that covered songs from four decades (80s, 90s, 00s, and now 10s) of music. Interesting enough, Erasure’s latest album, “Tomorrow’s World,” has not been released yet. This is always a bit tricky – touring to music that the audience had not heard yet – and I questioned if Erasure would be able to pull this off.

There are not many bands that have taught me life lessons, but Erasure has. Lesson #1: there is beauty in simplicity – from the remorseful “Breathe” to the admonishment “Ship of Fools,” Vince Clarke is able to craft music that is simple and beautiful, that does not rely on frills or production gimmicks. Do not get me wrong, tracks such as “Chorus” and the new “Whole Lotta Love Run Riot” proves that Clarke can get as “electronic” as the best of them, but at the core of all of Erasure’s songs is the conscious resignation to standard pop – a lost art in today’s world. This is a musical world where musical and emotional beauty is displayed with subtlety, and the live renditions were testaments to this. Lesson #2: be yourself no matter what anyone thinks or says. Andy Bell, one of the greatest front men of all time, can go from silly tip-toeing to mellow dramatic posturing in two seconds flat. From being open-ended (such as the elegant “Blue Savannah”) to there-is-no-doubt-he-is-gay (“Love to Hate You” – “For every Casanova that appears, my sense of hesitation disappears…”), Bell, like Erasure’s music, has a feel of naturalness and lacks the restraints that so many other musicians impose on themselves both in the studio and live. Lesson #3: always stand up for yourself and your beliefs. With tracks like “Chains of Love” and “A Little Respect” (their biggest hits in the USA), Erasure is not shy from making social commentary. But even when doing so, it is never preachy or heady, but rather fun and endearing – a very hard feat to achieve!


Though the diehard fans may have been in awe with the opening, the jaw dropping moment was when Erasure played “Push Me Shove Me” in the second half of the set. Though the song appears on the British version of their debut album, “Wonderland” (1986), in the USA it is b-side to the band’s first single, “Who Needs Love Like That?” (1985). How many established bands go back to play early rarities? Not many, but Erasure did so to an amazing reception. But of course, there were many other moments for the diehards, such as the compulsory finger pointing during “Drama” and waving of paper cut out hearts during “Oh L’Amour,” And, as always, Vince Clarke stayed in the background (unless playing acoustic guitars), as Andy Bell, accompanied by two background vocalists, dominated the stage and the audience’s attention.

The show did not have elaborate costume changes. However, Bell did change his shirt midway through the set to a Michael Jackson t-shirt, paying homage to the King of Pop. The show did not have a light show that was meant to wow and dazzle you, though it was sophisticated and complemented each song along the way. The show did not have any nifty props on stage, though the light strips on the mic stands during “Chorus” was nifty and the gargoyle-motif was cute. What this hour and three quarter did have was solid music, solid performance, perfect harmonies, and a moment where everyone there forgot the rushing world outside of New York and slipped into the netherworld of Erasure. There are not many pop performers who can hold an audience’s attention just singing and moving about randomly. Bell and Clarke, however, most definitely can. As the stone faced started smiling and those with two left feet started dancing, the music kept on flowing easily – and when the new songs were played, a casual onlooker would never have known that these where new songs, never heard before. Quickly learning the choruses, the audience ate up and danced away all of the new music – building up the anticipation for the new album next month.

(Andy Bell of Erasure)

I went to a show with a high school friend that I reconnected with after many years; she was there with her daughter. As Vince Clarke kicked off the music for “Drama,” and Andy Bell started to sing, I saw mother and daughter jumping up and down, singing along to each and every word, and even the audience, which earlier was full of people pushing and shoving for a better space, had relaxed into a friendly environment of shared euphoria. And that is when I was reminded about the power of Erasure. This is not just some 80s band or some generic synth band; this is not some “gay” band or some throwaway pop act – Erasure is more like religion, and the show more like going to church, where everyone is more than happily willing to give into a communion of having a good time full of respect, love and energy. And that is the staying power of Erasure – twenty-six years of good times, smiles, and happiness, and unless you experience it yourself, it is something you may never understand … and that is why if you have the opportunity to check them out on this tour, you most definitely should!

Set List
1. Sono Luminus
2. Always
3. When I Start To (Break It All Down)
4. Blue Savannah
5. Fill Us With Fire
6. Drama
7. You’ve Got To Save Me Right Now
8. Ship of Fools
9. Chorus
10. Breathe
11. Victim of Love
12. Alien
13. Push Me Shove Me
14. Love To Hate You
15. I Lose Myself
16. A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot
17. Breath of Life
18. Chains of Love
19. Sometimes
20. A Little Respect

21. Oh :’Amour
22. Stop!

(Again, there is no live footage of this tour available, but here is montage footage put to Erasure’s song “When I Start To (Break It All Down)” from their forthcoming album, “Tomorrow’s World," from the erasureinfo YouTube Channel.)

Keep up with Erasure at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Keep up with Frankmusik at his homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

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