Erasure at Bayou Music Center, 10/10/2014

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Erasure Bayou Music Center October 10, 2014

The first song that came up on PA system Friday after Dangerous Muse finished their brief opening set was Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)." As if the '80s memories already flooding into Bayou Music Center weren't heavy enough.

Erasure, though, slippery old synth-toting warhorses they are, aren't about to be painted with anyone's nostalgia brush. Electronic music's profile within pop's pecking order is considerably higher now than in Erasure's Top 40 days, but even in that context the UK duo's new album The Violet Flame doesn't sound dated. It's a sleek, supple vehicle that injects Erasure into the same conversation dominated by Avicii, Porter Robinson, Deadmau5 and other top EDM names, but not in an out-of-it old-farts kind of way. At the very least, Friday they gave their adoring Houston fans a contemporary epilogue for the personal John Hughes movies in our heads.

They certainly could have done a lot worse than opening with "Oh L'Amour," their expansive, yearning single from 1986 debut The Innocents. And the trance-ish makeover they gave "Chains of Love," which closed out the main set about 90 minutes later, felt like a completely natural extension of Erasure's music rather than a desperate attempt to remain relevant by an admittedly graying act.

But then, with age comes experience, wisdom and good taste. We were hardly in the hands of amateurs.

"We've got lots of lovely 12-inch mixes for you," vocalist and top-hatted ringmaster Andy Bell said following "Star," the second song, as he went on to introduce his "alien visor" and remark on the "barmy" weather outside.

Indeed, much of the material Friday night, the opener of a weekend stand at Bayou Music Center, had that extra drum-machine bump, not to mention vamps upon vamps that went on several bars long. Both signify songs (remixes, really) expressly designed for the dance floor; the brooding 808 workout that "Ship of Fools" became comes to mind. All evening long, Vince Clarke engineered a symphony of pillowy synth chords and near-robotic arpeggiated melodies from behind a laptop-and-keyboard setup no bigger than the average white-collar wage-slave's office cubicle.

So when the zeitgeist broke away from guitars, Erasure was already halfway home. But they wouldn't have lasted this long if there wasn't an awful lot of heart pinned to the humerus of their robo-pop skeleton.

Every so often Bell, a lithe and limber man, would break into a jig or run through some steps with the two towering backup singer/dancers, but he spent the bulk of the show at the edge of the stage, eyes fixated on the first few rows, arm extended in front of him in the classic crooner's pose. It was very theatrical, befitting of a band whose song titles include "Drama" and "Chorus."

A few strobes and stage lights tricked out to look like disco balls if necessary rested on a couple of columns, but otherwise a minimum of effects was necessary for Erasure to hold the audience rapt for those 90 minutes -- through the pulsating "Breath of Life"; swatches of processed guitar on "You Surround Me"; Violet Flame's "Sacred," a highlight of what Bell called "the spiritual, sexy part of the show"; and the metronomic pulse and outstretched melody of "Blue Savannah Song."

Even though the chairs were out (why?), the crowd in BMC's lower level never sat down once, and at least half the balcony was up and bopping in place by the time "Chorus" and "Chains of Love" set the stage for the encore. It's not hard to imagine that Etro, Numbers and Barbarella suddenly all experienced a sudden influx of happy people at around 11:30 p.m., many of them softly singing "Sometimes" to themselves.

Personal Bias: Bucket-list band before the kid comes.

The Crowd: Ex-Numbers/6400 rats lookin' fine, all babysittered up and out for blood, aka booze. Quite a bit more ethnically diverse than the previous night's Beck crowd.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Everything's bigger and better...so where's the music scene?"

Random Notebook Dump: Let's all hold hands and sing along.


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