ALTERED IMAGES + MAGNETIC SKIES – CHALK, BRIGHTON 20.3.22
At last!. It was a massive 1,010 days ago that we first announced that retro poppers Altered Images were going to be playing here in Brighton at Chalk, which had only then just risen out of the ashes of The Haunt in Pool Valley. A lot has happened in the world during that time and with the onslaught of Covid, this concert like many thousands of others got rescheduled.
So here we are 605 days later than the originally planned date of 24th July 2020, so we had better make it seriously count and enjoy ourselves whilst we can! Well at least those of us who still have retained their ticket confirmations or not forgotten about it.
By my reckoning, Altered Images have now this evening reached a half dozen concert appearances here in Brighton. I attended their first up at the Mandela Hall at the Falmer Campus of the University of Sussex on 25th November 1981. I remember it well, as I met some new friends that night and have remained friends with them ever since. Music has the ability to bring people together. They returned the following year (1982) and played in the centre of town at the sadly missed Top Rank Suite. Thankfully I still have my ticket stub from this concert.
Bubbly vocalist Clare Grogan, (which isn’t spelt with an ‘i’ in it – you have been warned!) resurrected the Altered Images banner and returned to Brighton after a 20 year hiatus, when she was part of the ‘Here and Now Christmas Party 2002’ tour. This saw her play to her largest Brighton crowd yet at the Brighton Centre on 20th December. Five years later, she joined the ‘Here and Now – The Very Best of the 80’s 2007’ tour and appeared at Stanmer Park. She returned to the Brighton Centre as guests of The Human League on 16th December last year. The Brighton & Hove News Music Team were in attendance and reported on that evening’s feel good factor – Read our review HERE.
As far as I can recall, I first came across Altered Images on the mighty John Peel late night radio shows on Radio 1. I can remember taping their first session which included their best ever tune, ‘Dead Pop Stars’, and that had me hooked! The three other session tunes for the record were ‘Beckoning Strings’, ‘Legionnaire (Instrumental)’ and ‘Insects’. This was first broadcast on 16th October 1980 – Listen HERE.
Altered Images are in Brighton tonight on date five of seven of their March 2022 tour, having already cheered up the good people of Manchester, Hebden Bridge, Stockton-on-Tees and Southend. After tonight, they head along the coast to Southampton, before concluding the tour in Reading.
First up this evening, it’s the turn of Darkwave/80’s fuelled synth poppers Magnetic Skies who are Simon Kent (vocals), Jo Womar (keyboards), Carlos Aguilar (guitars) and Lenin Alegria (drums) and they hail from the Hampshire/Dorset borders.
They dropped their latest tune ‘I Opened Up My Eyes’ on 11th March, which was preceded by their last single ‘Outside’ a month previous on 11th February – watch the video HERE. They will be dropping their new ‘Empire Falling’ album soon, but in the meantime, you can check out recorded output on their Bandcamp page HERE.
Tonight, the venue had abandoned the crowd barrier as they were correctly anticipating that there would be no moshing going on this evening. This was to us punters’ advantage, as it meant that we could all (should we wish) get a few feet closer to the bands. This wasn’t the case for tonight’s openers, as the shy and retiring people that had decided to get down early for the support artist, were adamantly staying about 20 feet back. Vocalist Simon maybe should have invited them all to close the gap, but he seemed a non-forceful type of chap.
Magnetic Skies took to the stage at 7:46pm and were clad for their 32 minute, seven song set in black clothing with Doc Marten boots, which is essential Darkwave garb. They opened with ‘Fading Lights’ which is from the new ‘Generation Blitz 2 – Concrete & Chrome’ compilation album, which is crammed with songs of the same ilk.
They played a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ from their 2020 ‘Into Paradise’ EP and a trio of recent single releases. The last of which, their final and best number, was last year’s ‘Not A Fire’ release, which certainly benefited from Jo being let loose on the keys of her Roland synth – Numan fans take note of this track!
By 8:18pm, they were done. Fans who enjoyed the Magnetic Skies set, which wasn’t everyone present, will be pleased to learn that the quartet will be back in Brighton on Saturday 28th May, when they will be supporting Heaven 17 at the Concorde 2 – Purchase your tickets HERE.
Magnetic Skies are:
Simon Kent – vocals
Jo Womar – keyboards
Carlos Aguilar – guitar
Lenin Alegria – drums
Magnetic Skies setlist:
‘Fading Lights’ (found on 2022 ‘Generation Blitz 2 – Concrete & Chrome’ compilation album)
‘I Opened Up My Eyes’ (found on 2022 ‘I Opened Up My Eyes’ single)
‘Ashes To Ashes’ (David Bowie cover) (found on 2020 ‘Into Paradise’ EP)
‘Outside’ (found on 2022 ‘Outside’ single)
‘Magnetic Skies’ (found on 2019 ‘Dreams And Memories’ EP)
‘Into Paradise’ (found on 2020 ‘Into Paradise’ EP)
‘Not A Fire’ (found on 2021 ‘Not A Fire’ single)
For 36 minutes the soundsystem was pumping out credible 80’s hits from back in the day in order to get the patiently waiting crowd in the mood. We had gems including ‘Cccan’t You See’ from Vicious Pink, ‘Homosapien’ by Pete Shelley (of Buzzcocks fame), ‘My Favourite Dress’ by The Wedding Present and of course ‘Heart Of Glass’ by Blondie.
It was now time for Clare Grogan and four Altered Images chums to grave the Chalk stage. The intro music of Altered Images own ‘A Day’s Wait’ tune finally forcing the punters to politely surge forward towards the stage.
Thankfully we had set up camp right at the front and I was pondering as I was looking up “How on earth is Clare 60 years old!”. Clearly the clock of time has been kind to her and she certainly looked the part in her black dress and sparkly “work only” silver high heel shoes.
Clare (without an “i” – got it!) certainly brought smiles to the room, as I looked behind and around me at the audience who were all standing there during the whole performance with big smirks and smiles on their faces and I guess that’s exactly what Altered Images are about… Having fun! The only Scottish ‘mock’ attitude we had on the night came from Rosie on Fender Jazz bass, as she told Clare (no “i” – okay!) to “f*ck off” when a discussion arose about speaking on stage. Clare retorted that it was the first time anyone had said that to her on stage. You know what…..she’s probably right too!
Clare couldn’t wait to tell us all that she has fond memories of her first summer holidays, coming down to Brighton from Scotland. She informed us that it invariably took between 13 to 18 hours to get here and was then stuck outside a pub with a bottle of pop, whilst her parents got merry inside. She wasn’t alone back in the late 1960’s, when that used to happen all the time. I was often “stationed” outside The Sportsman at Withdean with a bottle of Coca Cola and cheese and onion crisps. Thankfully I could run it off around the sports track!
Altered Images started their set with ‘I Could Be Happy’ and indeed we all were! OK, some might (rightly?) say that after their initial Siouxsie and the Banshees phase, they became rather twee, and now that there is just Clare left in the band, they are quite possibly just one step away from being a tribute act, but I tell you what……no-one last night gave two-hoots about that! Clare’s banter in between tracks is charming. You can’t help but warm to her. Bandmate Stephen Lironi certainly did as he married Clare in Glasgow in 1994 and their daughter Ellie was present in the crowd this evening.
After ‘See Those Eyes‘ (the official video was filmed at Portmeirion), we were soon on their first of possibly four offerings from their long overdue fourth studio album, ‘Mascara Streakz’, which will be dropping some time this year. But as Clare stated last night, her manager said that a few more months’ wait won’t really matter, as it’s been around 37 years anyway….39 actually!. The tune was the title track, and a funky little number it is too! It has decent backing vocals akin to ‘Moonlight And Muzak’ by M of ‘Pop Muzik’ fame. Let’s hope the whole album is as good as this when it finally comes out.
Another newbie was ‘Glitter Ball’, which was co-written with Bernard Butler who incidentally is a neighbour of Clare’s in Haringey in north London. This was followed by ‘Bring Me Closer’ from the 1983 ‘Bite’ album. The video of this features John Gordon Sinclair who Clare shared co-billing with in the UK classic ‘Gregory’s Girl’ film. This had a decent disco beat that the likes of Sophie Ellis-Bextor would have been proud of. After this we were served the forthcoming ‘Beautiful Thing’, which was written with Robert Hodgens, who is better known as ‘Bobby Bluebell’. The best song of the set was next, namely, ‘Dead Pop Stars’ and the hairs on my arms stood to attention for this one. Martin Johnston’s drumming was rather notable on this epic tune. As were Rosie on bass and Stef’s backing vocals, whereas Clare’s vocals went up another notch. She still feels it for this tune!
They then performed a cover of The Ting Tings ‘That’s Not My Name’, which Clare told us was reference to her name not being spelt with an “i” in it. The final number that I assume will appear on the forthcoming ‘Mascara Streakz’ was ‘The Colour Of My Dreams’, which had a decent mid 80s retro sounding vibe.
Before we knew it, we were onto the penultimate number, ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ (from 1983’s ‘Bite’), which Clare told us was the first song that she and her husband had written together. The essential feel-good ‘Happy Birthday’ was delivered as the encore tune and its final notes played out with two minutes to go before the 10pm curfew. Within a minute, the crowd had dispersed into the cold three degree night air.
Pre-order your copy of the new Altered Images ‘Mascara Streakz’ album HERE.
Altered Images tonight were:
Clare Grogan – vocals
Rosie McClune – bass/backing vocals
Alan Langdon – guitar/backing vocals
Martin Johnston – drums
Stef Black – backing vocals
Altered Images setlist:
(Intro tape) ‘A Day’s Wait’ (found on 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
‘I Could Be Happy’ (found on 1982 ‘Pinky Blue’ album)
‘See Those Eyes’ (found on 1982 ‘Pinky Blue’ album)
‘Mascara Streakz’ (found on forthcoming 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album)
‘Insects’ (found on 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
‘Love To Stay’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘Glitter Ball’ (found on forthcoming 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album)
‘Bring Me Closer’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘Beautiful Thing’ (found on forthcoming 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album)
‘Dead Pop Stars’ (found on bonus track edition of 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
‘That’s Not My Name’ (The Ting Tings cover)
‘Change Of Heart’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘The Colour Of My Dreams’ (found on forthcoming 2022 ‘Mascara Streakz’ album)
‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ (found on 1983 ‘Bite’ album)
‘Happy Birthday’ (found on 1981 ‘Happy Birthday’ album)
To find out more about Altered Images, visit their ‘linktree’ HERE.