Sunday, July 29
Better Than: Being on holiday in the Candy Cane Forest with Rick Astley, Ronnie Spector and Lady Bunny.
By Megan Metzger
All was full of love at the Uptown Theater Sunday night when electro-pop tart Andy Bell and his partner in music, Vince Clarke, turned the sometimes stodgy ol’ music hall into a sumptuous wonderland of sparkle and whimsy.
All colors of the rainbow were equally represented among the sizeable, up-on-its-feet crowd. High-rolling executives of the gay elite shook their butts next to swarthy, Birkenstock-wearing granola lesbians who high-fived the fantastic plastic androgynes on dates with their fruit-fly best friends.
Unfortunately we missed opener Young Love because we were at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow serving soup to homeless, transgendered kittens. Luckily for us, we arrived just in time to catch Erasure in all its glitter-coated glory.
Fan footage from the show:
Bell was a vision in fabulosity, strutting and voguing about in camo pants, a black tank and a silver metallic Blondie jacket, which he quickly peeled off to reveal chiseled arms and one tight package. Clarke worked intently behind his Mac book, and the boys were joined by three gorgeous backup singers with matching girl-group dance moves, camo dresses and miniature black netted hats like the kind Joan Collins wore on Dynasty.
The fivesome did their thing behind a blue staircase. Giant gems hung from the ceiling, as did seven plasma flat screens that flashed video and animation footage through out the night. It was like they were performing at Candyland’s Gum Drop Mountain. In space.
They opened with “Sunday Girl,” a bouncy track off their latest record, Light at the End of the World, and didn’t stop delivering yummy, cream-filled pop confections like “I Could Fall in Love with You,” “Ship of Fools,” and “I Love to Hate You.” The crowd remained out of their seats, even for the ballads.
During one of the ballads, I darted off to grab a smoke and a drink at the Uptown's Nowhere Bar. More like No Stock Bar. I asked for a gin and tonic, and the good-looking but kinda clueless bartender had neither straws nor limes. Still cost $5 for the little libation. Tupac blared on the PA. I ran into Mercury Mad, who was all dolled up in black eyeliner. We got to talking about his new Thursday night variety-show-like throwdown at Korruption in the West Bottoms, and then things quickly turned sour. I had to listen to Merc dish and bitch about people who are ignorant to what the word “queer” means for a good 10 minutes. While this was all totally riveting, I really wanted to get back to the show, but he gave me no segue. So I listened. Eventually, I just had to run away.
I got to my seat just in time to miss “Chains of Love,” Erasure’s biggest single in the States. It’s not my favorite Erasure song, but it still would’ve been great to see the crowd go apeshit over the 1988 radio hit. But at least now I know what “queer” really means (see definition 5).
At the midway point, Bell, Clarke and their three female backers skipped away offstage, and the plasma screens went black. White script streamed upward, and moody atmospheric music played.
“In case you’re wondering where everybody is,” the script read. “We’re having a smoke.”
“Just kidding. We’re behind the backdrop, putting on new outfits.”
The script continued, urging the audience to pretend like they were on some mind-altering substance and wave their hands in the air.
“After all, the music isn’t half bad,” the script reasoned. “If you like hippy, trippy stuff.”
Then it went on to say, “Not that I’m knocking hippies. I wore a long denim jacket, back in the day.”
The dry, British humor was spot-on and easily the best costume interlude we’ve ever witnessed.
Eventually they returned. This time, Clarke and Bell wore white suits slap-dashed with splatters of day-glo paint, and the backup singers wore Chinese-style, long day-glo dresses with slits up the side and matching feathers in their hair.
In the second half, Clarke and Bell combed through some of their back catalogue, with club hits like “Stop,” “A Little Respect” and “Oh L’Amour.” The accompanying video for “L'Amour” was a striking mix of gorgeous drag queens smoking and singing. It was very “Boys Keep Swinging.”
After an encore, the nearly two hours of tireless performance (take that, Depeche Mode) was over.
This has most likely been uttered a thousand times and it’s probably even a bit ignorant of me to say it, but for a guy living with HIV for almost ten years, Bell looks and sounds marvelous. His over-the-top performance, toned, excitable physique and rich, soulful croon mixed with Clarke’s synthetic, shimmering pop beats created a match made in dance party heaven.
I wish to Jeebus I'd brought my camera. I didn’t. I’m sorry. Artist renderings are available on request, but you have to provide the glitter crayons.
Personal Bias: The gays are my favorite.
Random Detail: Having said that, I only saw three gay guys (and one self-professed queer) whom I knew. The hell?
By the way: As awesome as this show was, the $35 starting-ticket price was steep. Bowie at Starlight cost about that much, if memory serves, and he’s got 20 years on Erasure. Just saying.