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EUPHORIC SYNTHPOP DUO STILL SHINING

Thank goodness for Andy Bell. What would we do without Erasure's comically energetic front man, eh? Stare at Vince Clarke (the serious one), pushing buttons and strumming guitar all night? No, we need a little glamour in our 80s synthpop, and Bell, decked out in top hat and tails (think Jiminy Cricket goes to Eurovision), provides just that.

Eventually, he'll strip down to a Blondie T-shirt and hot pants. Clarke, on the other hand, keeps to the background in his fancy suit and loafers. The vigorous yin to Clark's sombre yang, Bell (below) is in fine spirits this evening. With good reason, too; the iconic British duo just released their 16th studio album, The Violet Flame, and hey, they even managed to sell out two nights at the Olympia. Happy days.

Though, as Bell (50) jokingly protests, he's still waiting for a venue to pin their picture to the walls. Tonight is mostly about nostalgia, and even if much of Bell and Clarke's euphoric and electronic love tunes follow a similar path, there's a lot to be said for Erasure's jubilant live show. It's brash (90 minutes, no messing about), it's simple (only two backing vocalists added on) and a just a little tacky. But tackiness works.

So do the fresh tunes, mind (newbie Elevation stands strong against hit singles Blue Savannah and the infectious A Little Respect). Clarke keeps the zippy beats coming as his alarmingly fit and effervescent band mate gets his sweaty workout on. Nice to know that, after 29 years, he can still hit those high notes, too. Again, it's a cheap-as-chips production - basic memory lane/festive party stuff, with lots of strobe lighting. But with so few people on the road, everyone goes home a little richer, don't they? In more ways than one, I'd bet. Grand job, boys.

HHHII


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