BLANCMANGE + BERNHOLZ – THE OLD MARKET, HOVE 15.11.18
OK I confess, I was a mega Blancmange fan virtually right from their beginning when I purchased the now famous ‘Some Bizarre Album’ when it first came out in 1981. This compilation album (which also included early tracks by Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, The The and Naked Lunch) preceded Blancmange’s first 12” single ‘God’s Kitchen’ which came out in 1982 and only their strange ‘Irene & Mavis’ EP came before in 1980. I even grabbed ticket 001 when I saw them live at the New Regent in Brighton in 1982.
Blancmange back then was Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe and they achieved Top 10 singles status with ‘Living On A Ceiling’ (1982), ‘Blind Vision’ (1983) and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ (1984) and their second album ‘Mange Tout’ (1984) also hit the Top 10 albums.
I suspect that a large majority of tonight’s Old Market packed out crowd, will possibly wrongly perceive that the Blancmange musical releases output simply stems from that time, but they would be terribly wrong. Over the last 7 years, there have in fact been 7 new Blancmange albums as well as other side projects. People will simply be missing out on this top quality new material. OK, Blancmange MKII for a better word, haven’t been denting the charts with these recent releases, but there is a whole host of fab tracks just waiting to be discovered – Have a look here www.blancmange.co.uk.
Tonight in Hove, I am pleased to report that the synthesizers and surrealism are still present, with the keyboard side of things being represented by Mr Oogoo Maia on the Roland JUPITER-80 and a powerful Novation synths as well as Mr Liam Hutton on laptop and Kraftwerk type drum pads complete with bass foot pedal. The surrealism side of things is contained within Mr Arthur’s amusing lyrics, just as he always has, ‘God’s Kitchen’, ‘Living On A Ceiling’ what’s that all about?
The sound in this school gym style building was rather good tonight, with ‘Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job)’ and ‘Game Above My Head’ sounding particularly meaty. It was a crisp 18 song career spanning set, with emphasis on the reason for the tour, to plug the latest ‘Wanderlust’ album – they performed 6 of the albums 10 songs tonight. I was dead chuffed about this as it’s a great album.
‘Wanderlust’ signals a true return to form, no doubt aided by Benge, who records with Neil under the moniker of Fader. In fact tonight. We were even treated to a Fader track called ‘I Prefer Solitude’, which can be found on their fab 2017 ‘First Light’ album. Benge also works with ex-Ultravox! frontman John Foxx as John Foxx & The Maths, and with ex-Cabaret Voltaire member Stephen Mallinder as Wrangler. He produced John Grant’s latest album too – grab that on Bella Union.
The ‘original hits’ tonight I would suggest sound more up-to-date than when originally released and so can best be appreciated on the ‘Happy Families Too…’ album from 2013, with ‘I Can’t Explain’ sounding rather juicy. Neil even added a tiny medley into ‘Feel Me’ with Hot Chocolate’s ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ and Grace Jones ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’. The epic synth-pop of ‘Waves’ was the sole encore track and as it is my favourite tune of theirs, then it was a perfect way to finish off a fabulous performance.
The selection of tracks was bang on tonight and I would even go as far to say that this was the best that I have seen them in their revitalised form and as Moby says about Blancmange, that they are “Probably the most under-rated electronic act of all time”.
And did Neil enjoy himself tonight? Yep sure did, as he posted “Thank you Brighton, you were wonderful” on social media.
Tonight’s setlist as far as I can recall reads:
‘Distant Storm’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘In Your Room’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘Game Above My Head’ (taken from 1984 ‘Mange Tout’ album)
‘Not a Priority’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘What’s the Time?’ (taken from 2017 ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ album)
‘I Can’t Explain’ (taken from 1982 ‘Happy Families’ album & 2013 ‘Happy Families Too…’ album)
‘I Smashed Your Phone’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘TV Debate’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘What’s Your Problem?’ (taken from 1985 ‘What’s Your Problem?’ album)
‘Wanderlust’ (taken from 2018 ‘Wanderlust’ album)
‘I’ve Seen the Word’ (taken from 1982 ‘Happy Families’ album & 2013 ‘Happy Families Too…’ album)
‘I Prefer Solitude’ (taken from Fader’s 2017 ‘First Light’ album)
‘Anna Dine’ (taken from 2017 ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ album)
‘Last Night (I Dreamt I Had a Job)’ (taken from 2016 ‘Commuter 23’ album)
‘Living on the Ceiling’ (taken from 1982 ‘Happy Families’ album & 2013 ‘Happy Families Too…’ album)
‘Feel Me’ (taken from 1982 ‘Happy Families’ album & 2013 ‘Happy Families Too…’ album)
‘Blind Vision’ (taken from 1983 ‘Blind Vision’ single)
‘Waves’ (taken from 1982 ‘Happy Families’ album & 2013 ‘Happy Families Too…’ album)
Find out more about Blancmange HERE.
Support this evening came from a guy who goes under the banner of Bernholz. It’s actually his surname and his christian name is Jez. He met a Brighton girl called Elizabeth Walling and she became Mrs Bernholz and Mrs Bernholz is none other than the avant-garde electronic act known as Gazelle Twin.
I have seen Bernholz perform live before and it’s fair to say that his work is along the same lines as his wife’s, which is arguably of an experimental nature. It’s not chart friendly music, it’s more akin to film scores or to John Foxx’s ambient output. Not that all of Bernholz material is ambient, but Jez was entertaining the crowd with his box of electronic tricks.
The surprise was his final track ‘Bulk Erase’ – which sounds a tad like the Vile Electrodes ‘Deep Red’ song – which he performed with Blancmange’s Neil Arthur. I suppose it shouldn’t have been a real surprise as they have released an album together back in May under the banner of Near Future and the ten track collaboration platter is entitled ‘Ideal Home’. ‘Bulk Erase’ being the closing tune on this enjoyable electronic album. You can listen to and if you like, purchase the album HERE. I am also particularly fond of track eight ‘Gap In The Curtain’ – see what your favourite is.
Find out more about Bernholz HERE.
If you enjoy synth music like the Blancmange, then the chances are that you will also enjoy the bands listed below. Simply click on each of the names and they will take you to our concert reviews on those bands:
Vile Electrodes, Fröst, The Human League, The KVB, Digitalis, Battery Operated Orchestra, Halo Maud, Sextile, Gary Numan, Orbital, Pinkshinyultrablast, B-Movie, Covenant, AK/DK, Blue Hawaii, OMD, The Fin., Heaven 17, Austra