Spandau Ballet Makes U.S. Return With SXSW Film Premiere and Concert
Wednesday's gig marked the British New Romantic band's first Statesdie performance in nearly 30 years
Having finished their first performance in the U.S. in more than 28 years, Spandau Ballet will wait until George Hencken's documentary, "Soul Boys of the Western World," has distribution before returning.
"We're still working out where we're going to go next," says guitarist and chief songwriter Gary Kemp. "It all depends on when the film comes out."
Spandau Ballet had a double header in Austin on March 12, with the premiere of "Soul Boys" in the afternoon and an 11-song set after midnight at the Vulcan Gas Co. The set included the opened with "To Cut a Long Story Short" (the song that, in the documentary, they say is the best one they ever wrote) and closed with their two biggest hits, "True" and "Gold."
Formed in the late 1970s, Spandau Ballet's popularity in the U.K. and Europe, where they were considered on par with Duran Duran, far outpaced their fan base in the U.S. The band's 1985 U.S. tour went off the rails after saxophonist Steve Norman tore his knee at a show at the L.A.'s Gibson (formerly Universal) Amphitheater. The band was forced to cancel the rest of its run and never returned to the States.
"America's perception of Spandau Ballet was not, sorry for the pun, true," vocalist Tony Hadley told Billboard at the Driskell Hotel. "What we were doing at the beginning, synthy things with beats, and who we were in 1983 with the suits and everything was very different."
Hencken's documentary uses archival footage only, tracing the quintet from their youth in working-class London to forming the band and hanging out in clubs such as Billy's where fashion, dance music and rock 'n' roll were blending together. The only interview subjects are the band members.
Hencken says she had only two goals as she sifted through 400 hours of footage that included MTV clips, home movies and video outtakes."I wanted to watch this friendship develop and I really wanted to evoke the '80s," she remembers. "To me, the '80s were the future. It was such a massive transition, the world became incredibly colorful."
Her film covers the parallel worlds in politics and pop culture, the reign of prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the razing of the Berlin Wall, the ant-Apartheid protests in South Africa and Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985 where Spandau Ballet played a 15 minute set.
"We were working-class (people) projected onto the world and the world around us changes dramatically," bassist Martin Kemp says of the film. "You don't have to be a Spandau Ballet fan to enjoy the movie. If it was a feature film, it would be a right of passage, about five guys growing up. Our journey is one everybody can appreciate."