Tony Hadley Vs Martin Fry - Bridgewater Hall - 3.5.05

So far 2005 had been about every single year but 2005. Sure you may have your Grime and Crunk stars in the making and reality TV shows may be some signal that we're living in the present day, but everything else is pointing backwards. Comedians such as Dave Spikey and Peter Kay are so old school you might as well call them the Bob Monkhouse and Russ Abbott of the day. Channel 5's the Farm is essentially the Waltons with Celebrity pig tossing and musically while the Killers and the Bravery take influence from the 80s, the likes of Cutting Crew, T'Pau and Hue & Cry are appearing each week on Hit Me Baby One More Time. The fact that Doctor Who is the most popular program on TV is proof enough that the space time continuum is fluxed up.

Tony Hadley's career was revived in the nostalgia-fest that was "Reborn In The USA", of which he won over the mighty talents of Sonia and Dollar. Martin Fry's career took a somewhat different path with "The Lexicon Of Love" receiving critical acclaim to this day and a number of years ago he was called on by Robbie Williams to support him on his mammoth tour. Together they couldn't be anymore different, Frys shimmying and smooth moves juxtaposed by Hadley's every man down the pub image.

"Up Up & Away" kicks things off in full cabaret mode. It's sort of cheese fest that Mike Flowers used to knock out, but it's a much needed light relief for a crowd whose age tells a story of endless nights in front of the box. The Stevie Wonder classic "Signed Sealed Delivered" erases all memory of the atrocious Blue cover and it's following this that the guys take their turns on a series of solo numbers.

"Tears Are Not Enough" sounds cluttered and rushed and a far cry from the recorded version, but a new song "The Very First Time" proves that Fry still has that talent for writing an unstoppable hook. Wonder is again revisited on "Uptight Oversight" and following the James Bond theme "Thunderball", Fry tackles the New Radicals "Get What You Give". A bizarre choice some may say, but it's the most contemporary song played tonight and you have to give him the credit for attempting and driving the song.

Hadley's covers are a little more reserved, but his tales and banter inbetween are endearing. "This one goes out to all the fella's. Do you ever go to the pub to much and have to say sorry to your girl" he asks before a touching cover of Elvis' "Always On My Mind". A cod gospel breakdown during "Freefalling" and "Walking In Memphis" thankfully make up for the tres tres tiresome jazz covers earlier on.

It's hits that really make the grade though with ABC's "Poison Arrow", "All Of My Heart", "When Smokey Sings" and "Look Of Love" blowing Spandau Ballet's limited repertoire of "True", "Through The Barricades" and "Gold" out of the water. For the finale a series of duets gets the crowd up dancing. "Let's Stay Together" with Hadley on guitar is a revelation, "That Loving Feeling" a true crowd pleaser and Bowie's "Suffragette City" showing their influences as pure post-punk.

Bring on the nostalgia fest next year.

Alex McCann

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