Erasure Verizon Wireless Theater September 24, 2011
Over the course of their 25-year history together, British duo Erasure has recorded 13 albums, released 40 singles, and sold 25 million records. The pair is subsequently considered as one of the definitive architects of New Wave synth-pop music.
But Erasure has laid relatively low over recent years. Historically charismatic front man Andy Bell released a solo album, Non-Stop, and Vince Clarke, founder member of both Depeche Mode and Yaz, reunited with Yaz's Alison Moyet, releasing the album In Your Room in 2008.
After independently pursuing their separate aspirations, Bell and Clarke revived Erasure, a musical partnership they say was initially built and maintained by a strong friendship bond. Fourteenth album Tomorrow's World drops October 4.
One look at the Verizon stage Saturday night proved Bell and Clarke hadn't lost their dramatic creative flair. It was dressed with multiple vast gargoyle busts, Clarke's keyboard concealed behind the head of one buttress.
Erasure walked onstage clad in sequined suit jackets; Bell in pink, Clarke in red. Bell sported an ornate Centurion helmet, while his two backup singers wore fitted red corsets.
Erasure opened with "Sono Luminos," from their 1995 self-titled release, and went straight into audience-approved hit, 1994's "Always."
We'd seen Bell's solo show at Numbers in January; the Verizon vibe differed immediately, as the venue placed rows of seating in the entirety of its general-admission area. Any fan will tell you Erasure fans like to dance.
In fact, we'd argue it's damn near impossible not to dance during an Erasure show. While the seating situation hindered dance space and intimacy, a happy medium was reached, as the venue allowed some fans to approach the barricade-less stage, creating a sort of makeshift pit area.
Bell seemed to enjoy the proximity to his fans too, as he flirted and blew kisses to the crowd. "How are you doing tonight, Houston," he asked, removing his headdress, jacket, then his shirt - a black lace-up corset - unveiling an impressively toned physique, before pulling on a strategically tattered Devo tank top.
Bell seemed to let loose at this point (perhaps the helmet restricted his movement) warming up to the crowd, gracefully prancing around the stage like a ballerina in cowboy boots. Bell and the audience seemed to feed off one another; fans responded to his dancing and twirls, invigorated by his energy.
"I apologize to the front row, for they may get splashed with my sweat," Bell warned, though his fans didn't seem to mind, as they only cheered unconditionally in support.
Inescapably obvious throughout the set was the crowd's reaction to the group's old vs. new material; one could measure whether or not a song was "vintage" Erasure simply by watching whether the crowd sat down or stood up. This is only natural, but was made obvious by the fans' rare option of "taking a load off" in their seats.
In fans' defense, so much dancing makes one tired; additionally, Tomorrow's World hasn't officially been released, so most of us were unfamiliar with the material -naturally, these songs created opportune bathroom breaks and beer runs for many attendees.
Fans expectedly responded most to Erasure's infectious hits, including "Blue Savannah," "Chorus," "Chains of Love" and set closer "Respect." After a brief break, the duo returned to the stage for a welcomed encore. While Bell maintained his sunny disposition and energy, Clarke seemed to phone in his entire performance, mostly disengaging himself from his stagemates and the crowd. Needless to say, Bell stole the show.
After a set only sprinkled with old hits, Erasure delivered perhaps their two most beloved singles during the show's final minutes: 1986's "Oh L'Amour" and closer "Stop" both uprooted fans from their seats, many mimicking Bell and his singers' "Stop in the name of love" choreography, before the duo waved a short goodbye and left the stage.
We suspect the majority of fans left the show feeling pleased; whether it was the contagious lightheartedness of Erasure's disco-centric pop melodies, or mere New Wave nostalgia, Bell, in particular, resurrected the heart of Erasure's hopeless-romantic songs.
No new life was necessarily breathed into their set, but with a proven catalog like theirs, sometimes it's just not necessary.
Personal Bias: While we had fun at Saturday's show, Bell's solo set at Numbers was immeasurably better.
The Crowd: Thirty- and fortysomething fans and Verizon's Igloo Bar big-gulp frozen-margarita enthusiasts.
Overheard In the Crowd: As fans exited the venue, a spontaneous "Stop" singalong commenced.
Random Notebook Dump: Devo tank-top envy.
Sono Luminus Always When I Start Blue Savannah Fill Us With Fire Drama Save Me Ship of Fools Chorus Breathe Victim of Love Alien Hideaway Love to Hate You I Lose Myself A Whole Lotta Love Riot Chains of Love Sometimes Respect
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Oh L'Amour Stop