September 16, 2011

Erasure / Frankmusik - Terminal 5 - September 13, 2011

I started out from my apartment later than usual on Tuesday night, met my friend Mark at 7 and got to Terminal 5 at about 7:30. Usually, I find an open spot in the balcony and park myself to watch the show but there were no spaces to be found. So for the first time, I watched a show at T5 from the main floor.

It took me awhile to warm up to Frankmusik AKA Vincent Frank. I don't know if it was his awful trousers or the 80's song quotes that turned me off but I can honestly say that neither were working for me. For me the song quotes seemed like an unnecessary device to get the audience to listen to his music. One or two might have been okay, but four song quotes within the first ten minutes of his set was a bit much.

BUT once I got passed the trousers and the song quotes, I really enjoyed Frankmusik. His pop songs, that he was working too hard to get the audience to listen to, are well written and he sang them really well. I even enjoyed his often gawky bad boy stage presence juxtaposed against keyboardist Casey Carlson who looked like she was back from a shopping spree with Boy George and Thompson Twins.

Frankmusik opened up with the catchy "No Bueno" which briefly journeyed into Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" and went back to "No Bueno." Before going directly into the song "Break Lights," Frankmusik sang part of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" and after "Break Lights," he served up a portion of "Disco Inferno" by the Tramps and then Phil Collin's and Philip Bailey's "Easy Lover." Get the picture? I was wanting to hear Frankmusik and I was getting megahits from past decades.

Besides, Frankmusic's songs already pay tribute to yesteryear's music, like "When Your Around" which drummer Alasdair Anderson made sound like very fast disco by playing off his highhats. I thought "Struck By Lightening" was a really cool hook for a song and so was "Ludicrous." I also felt that "Cut Me Down" was one of those songs that made me want to sing along.

I really enjoyed when Casey Carlson came out from behind the keyboard for "No ID." I would have liked a little more interaction between Frankmusik and her but for the song, it seemed like enough. I thought all three musicians kept Frankmusik's set at a high energy level, therefore his set seemed to go by really quickly. Ending with "Doing It In The AM," Frankmusik was an excellent choice as an opener for Erasure. I hope to hear him again - sin song quotes or at least as many.

Frankmusik Set List
1. No Buen
2. Brake Lights
3. When You're Around
4. Struck By Lightning
5. Ludicrous
6. Better Off As Two
7. Cut Me Down
8. No ID
9. Do It In the AM

During Frankmusik's set he did portions of the following cover songs
You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
How Will I Know - Whitney Houston
Disco Inferno - The Trammps
Easy Lover - Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon
(Sweet Dreams - Eurthymics - music only)

Frankmusik is:
Vocals - Vincent Frank 

Touring musicians:
Keyboard/vocals - Casey Carlson 
Drummer - Alasdair Anderson


Tuesday night was the first of two nights for Erasure at Terminal 5. The name of their current tour and their fourteenth CD is titled "Tomorrow's World." Obviously, whatever they foresee the future as being, it's not going to be very happy. The stage had a backdrop that looked like something from the film "The Crow," along with gargoyles with eyes that lit up. While I was waiting for the show to start, it became evident to me that one of the gargoyles was actually Vince Clark's keyboard stand; I could see the apple insignia through the top of gargoyle. (I never saw a keyboard - all I could see was the laptop.)

Erasure walked out at a little after 9PM with backup singers Valerie Chalmers and Emma Whittle in tow. Happily the motif for the shows costumes was black and red which as you may have noticed is this writers favorite combo. Both men had glittery red jackets. Vince Clark had a red and black pork pie hat on and Andy Bell wore what looked like a black Sparten warrior helmet for most of the first song "Sono Luminus." Though I liked the effect, while the helmet was on, Bell seemed constrained and seemed almost as if he couldn't hear himself. Once the helmet came off Bell was in good form.

Bell has that same soulful voice he has on Erasure's recordings.  As Bell moved from "Always" to "When I Start To," he took off his jacket revealing his sleeveless vest and began to loosen up. Once Bell got past the intro to "Blue Savannah," he started moving and camping it up, by doing his ballet twirls and jiggling as he glided from one side of the stage to the other. Andy Bells movements reminded of a cross between Black Swan and a coked up runway model.

"Drama" was one of the high points in the set. The crowd joined in by always shouting out the second "guilty!" as it's done on the recording. It was kind of cool that whenever Bell held the note on the word "Never," backup singers Chalmers and Whittle sang the word with him doing a downward chromatic melisma.

I think it was before "You've Got To Save Me Right Now" that Clark came from behind his gargoyle center stage to pull some of the strings on the back of Bell's vest as if it were a corset. Bell chatted up the audience a little, telling them it was the first time Erasure ever played T5 and that it reminded him of a big ship or something. He also made reference to one the gargoyles and said "This one's called Nancy Grace."

I hope this isn't taken the wrong way because I really enjoyed Erasure's set. However, at times it felt a little too planned to the point that the stage blocking felt obvious, especially with the back-up vocalists. There were four platforms on stage and for each song the women either stood on opposite sides of Andy Bell or stood together sometimes with their mic stands on one of the platforms. For example, during "Ship of Fools" the ladies stood behind Bell on the platform, then on the musical break they stepped off the platform together.That sort of movement happened a lot.  I know it was done to keep things visually interesting but after awhile the continuous blocking got a little tedious. Maybe the boys should have hired some dancers.

Please note, I said the blocking was tedious. The ladies themselves were fun to watch and had wonderful voices. I loved that they reminded me of the early Motown acts when background vocalists wore the same costumes and did the same steps. When it's sincere, I'm a sucker for singers who smile like Chalmers and Whittle did; it showed they enjoy what they are doing.

Before "Chorus" the mic stands were changed for stands with lights that started to blink on and off once the song began. Before "Breathe" Bell stripped off his vest, trading it for a Michael Jackson tee shirt and shades. I perceived the moment as one dedicated solely to MJ, but I saw on YouTube that Bell wore a Devo tee shirt the following night and a Sex Pistols tee shirt in Boston 2 days prior.

For "Alien," Vince Clark came out from behind the gargoyle for a second time and all four performers sat on the platforms. Clark played guitar to a percussion track as Bell sang beside him and the ladies sat behind them. It was nice to actually see Vince Clark playing an instrument. Since he was behind the gargoyle for most of the show, he could have been reading a Kindle, playing the stock market or masturbating for all I know. (Hardcore fans: chill - I'm joking)

Erasure's set started to sizzle when the boys did "Push Me Shove Me" and followed it up with "Loved To Hate You." I got excited and screamed when I heard the song's opening music. (...but not like a girl. I would if I could but my voice doesn't go that high.) When Bell announced "Here's two new ones back to back," I thought oh well there goes the momentum but I found myself really enjoying both songs. In terms of feel, the two songs seemed very house but I especially liked the second song which sounded like it was about - dare I say - a whore!

Once Erasure did "Breath Of Life," the 3 guys who where standing next to me started dancing and singing along. Don't know if the were gay friends or it was bromance but they all seemed in agreement as if it were their song.

Back up singers Valerie Chalmers and Emma Whittle stood face to face to sing the opening of "Chains of Love." When the faster music came in, Andy Bell sang as he part sauntered and part danced his way across the stage. At the same time it seemed like the entire audience joined in and sang along with him.

Vince Clark came from behind the gargoyle for the last two songs of the set. Of course the boys ended with the piece de resistance "A Little Respect." I waited for it, I love the song but it still makes me sad. The song strikes a minor chord in me and reminds me there were times in the 80's when things felt really dark. Nonetheless, it is and will continue to be a timeless greatest hit.

Bell and Clark came out for the encore and played the melody of "Oh L'Amour" on a small toy instrument before actually doing the song. Once the song started, I noticed that a stained glass image appeared behind the circular backdrop. Erasure then finally concluded their set with the song "Stop!" I was already satisfied and would have left happy even if Erasure hadn't done on encore but I gladly stayed for two more songs.

Erasure's Set List
1.Sono Luminus
3.When I Start To (Break It All Down)
4.Blue Savannah
5.Fill Us With Fire
7.You've Got To Save Me Right Now
8.Ship Of Fools
11.Victim Of Love
13.Push Me Shove Me
14.Love To Hate You
15.I Lose Myself
16.A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot
17.Breath Of Life
18.Chains Of Love
20.A Little Respect
21.Oh L'Amour

Erasure are:
Andy Bell - Vocals
Vince Clarke - Keyboards
Touring back-up vocalists:
Valerie Chalmers
Emma Whittle

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