A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS + BEAUTIFUL MECHANICA – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 25.9.23
Back on 3rd March this year it was announced that Mike Score would be bringing the legendary A Flock Of Seagulls to the Concorde 2 on Madeira Drive in Brighton on Monday 25th September 2023. To my knowledge, this was to be only the fourth time that A Flock Of Seagulls have ever played live in Brighton.
Their debut appearance was on 8th November 1982 when they played the Top Rank Suite (now PRYZM). I was lucky enough to have attended this concert and was literally so blown away by them that on the following day I contacted the Lyceum in London and purchased my concert ticket for their show a week later on 15th November, which was equally as impressive.
My love affair with A Flock Of Seagulls, who incidentally got their name from The Stranglers 1978 song ‘Toiler On The Sea’ from their ‘Black And White’ album, was kicked off when I came across their second single ‘Telecommunication’ which interestingly was released exactly 42 years ago today, on 25th September 1981. It was an instant synthpop classic! Two months later they dropped their ‘Modern Love Is Automatic’ EP, which was maintaining their building cult status. Then four months later the band made a serious breakthrough with their ‘I Ran’ single, which although stalling just outside the UK Singles Top 40 at No.43, smashed the charts in other parts of the globe! It reached No.1 in Australia, No.7 in New Zealand and most importantly broke them into the massive USA market and hit No.9. A Flock Of Seagulls had well and truly arrived!
Their self-titled debut album dropped in April 1982. It was as perfect an album as anyone could have expected and at the time I knew that it would be an instant classic. Our American friends agreed and bought enough copies that it reached No.10 in the US Album Charts! Elsewhere it reached No. 5 in Canada, No.6 in New Zealand, but sadly only No.32 here in their home country.
A year later in April 2023 the outfit released their second long-player, which was titled ‘Listen’. Clearly many here in the UK did as the album fared better here and reached No.16 in the UK Album Charts. It fared well elsewhere across the globe as well, probably due to the inclusion of their October 1982 hit single ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’.
By the time their third album, ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’, came out in August 1984, my taste had moved away from their commercial synthpop sound. It turns out, I wasn’t alone, although the album just scraped in at No.30 in the UK Albums Chart, it was to be their last hit album and by 1986 the band had called it a day. However two years later, Mike Score resurrected the band name and has been on the case with many changes of personnel ever since. Mike being the band’s vocalist and keyboardist with the distinctive gullwing haircut that everyone remembers. The band had formed back in 1979 with Mike Score at the helm, aided by his brother Ali on drums and Frank Maudsley on bass guitar.
Back in the day A Flock Of Seagulls returned to the Top Rank Suite on one further occasion and popped up again at the Brighton Centre on 2nd July 2011 as part of the ‘Here And Now 10th Anniversary Tour’. Tonight, at the Concorde 2, was their fourth visit and I decided it was about time I acquainted myself with all the early hits again. Especially as on 17th February this year, their self-titled eleven song debut album which contained no less than four brilliant singles (‘Telecommunication’, ‘Modern Love Is Automatic’, ‘I Ran (So Far Away)’ and ‘Space Age Love Song’) was re-released as a 40th anniversary transparent orange vinyl edition, as well as an expanded 3CD set containing 45 recordings – Order yours HERE. The 3CD set was purchased by yours truly and the trip down memory lane has been running for a few months now, so it’s time to see whether the band can still cut the mustard or not.
Tonight’s Brighton concert is date five of seven on this select UK tour which has seen the band already perform sold out concerts in Birmingham, Liverpool, Bedford, and Chester. Tomorrow they will play a sold out show in Guildford, and then close the tour in Bristol on Wednesday.
Tonight, we safely arrived at the Concorde 2 on a relatively warm evening and entered the venue and immediately noted that there wasn’t a merch stall, which is rather unusual. So we made our way to the stage area in time to catch the support act after which there was a half hour wait until A Flock Of Seagulls graced us with their presence bang on their allocated slot of 9:15pm. They were to deliver 16 tunes across the next 87 minutes until 10:42pm.
The musicians are founding member Mike Score, who has been on the whole journey of A Flock Of Seagulls which is 1979 to 1986 and then 1988 until today and he is centre front on lead vocals, Roland keyboard and for one song brings out his decent looking Guild guitar complete with vibrato tailpiece. Accompanying him (stage right, our left) is the intriguingly named Pando who has been in the band since 2004 and plays his bass guitar with his name stencilled on it. On the opposite side of the stage is Canadian Gord Deppe on his cordless Gibson guitar. He is the newest member of the quartet, having come aboard six years ago in 2017. Completing the lineup is stixman Kevin Rankin who has been sitting behind the drumkit since 2016.
As the band strike up the first few notes of opener ‘Modern Love Is Automatic’, a smile is brought to my face as I note that some wag has strategically placed some black tape on Score’s keyboard, thus it reads as “Poland” as opposed to Roland. Mind you the best example of this is actually Sparks as theirs reads “Ronald” as in keyboardist (and legend) Ron Mael. In fact the word “legend” is actually bounded about a few times this evening from folks’ reply to Pando’s often namechecking of Mike Score. Although Pando’s regular “1980’s” references were wearing a little thin on me to be honest. I suspect he’s probably American and you know what they are like about advertising and promotion!
Score addresses the crowd for the first time prior to ‘Hearts On Fire’ and states “How you guys doing? This is Monday night in Brighton. Cool”. He put his synth through its paces during this second song. Both this and the following tune ‘Rainfall’ were to be found on their latter 1995 ‘The Light At The End Of The World’ album. Things were brought right up to date (not “1980’s!”) with an unreleased track, which is referred to as “Him” on the setlist, but Score sings the line “I Know You’re With Him”, so I reckon that might be the full title. I guess time will tell when the forthcoming album details emerge.
Their fifth selection was certainly delivered with aplomb and also signalled the lasers to the rear of the stage being used for the first time this evening. The colour of choice being green for the drumming led ‘Nightmares’. This was followed by ‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ which Score dedicated to his mother. This tune had a decent strings style intro. It was then time to ‘Transfer Affection’ and after which Pando had noted a young lad at the front who was merrily singing along to every word and clapping his hands. Pando asked him how old he was and the reply was 14, which certainly took Pando aback and pointed him out to Score and then Pando threw him one of his bass guitar picks as a reward, which was a kind gesture.
The next two tracks were ‘Say You Love Me’, which was the third and final selection from 1995’s ‘The Light At The End Of The World’ album, followed by the Numanesque keys sounding ‘Some Dreams’, which I suspect might be another unreleased tune, but I’m not totally sure about this. For this powerful number, Pando stood atop the front stage speaker immediately above my head for the only time during the concert and drummer Rankin was seen merrily twirling his right hand drumstick. Surprisingly, this was the set highlight to that point.
Selection ten signalled the slower drumbeats of 1982’s ‘Man Made’, for which Score swapped his Roland keyboard for his fancy-looking Guild guitar with a tremolo. This was another powerful tune, after which Pando introduced his bandmates. Pando seems to be the person chosen to interact with the crowd equally as much, if not more so than Score, who regularly took a sip of water after each tune. Another unreleased song came along next in the form of ‘Lovers And Strangers’ which Score informed us would appear on the new album which will drop next February. The lasers were used again for this track and were switched from green to purple.
We had now arrived at that part of the show where the big hitters (and fan favourites) are played. The first of these being 42nd birthday song ‘Telecommunication’, which was greatly extended from its two and half minute original release. The track almost wandered into Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ territory meets the sound of US duo Suicide. Score told us that he has believed in aliens since he was a little boy as a result of ‘Dr Who’ and wrote the tune as a way of contacting them.
‘Space Age Love Song’, like its predecessor, was found on the band’s self-titled debut album from 1982, and was shared with the eager punters next. This witnessed both Pando and guitarist Deppe briefly on backing vocals. It’s fair to say that the crowd were to this point most excited about this song, however…………..1983’s ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph of You)’ was up next and followed by ‘I Ran’ (sometimes called ‘I Ran (So Far Away)’ and it’s fair to comment that these were the solid fan favourites. It’s worth noting that ‘Wishing’ was played particularly well.
Brighton and Hove Albion fans were present tonight as after the quartet left the stage there were cries of “seagulls!” to which the Seagulls returned back to the stage and signed off with ‘Messages’ and that was our lot, despite ‘The Traveller’ showing on the setlist, it was not played on account of the time factor and that they had already slipped the two newbie’s into the set earlier on. So at 10:42pm the fans went away very happy indeed. It was great to see the band live again after all this time, even though I knew that my two 1982 concerts were better, but thanks to promoters The Pad Presents for bringing them to Brighton this time around.
A Flock Of Seagulls:
Mike Score – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Pando – bass, backing vocals
Kevin Rankin – drums
Gord Deppe – guitar, backing vocals
A Flock Of Seagulls setlist:
‘Modern Love Is Automatic’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
‘Hearts On Fire’ (from 1995 ‘The Light At The End Of The World’ album)
‘Rainfall’ (from 1995 ‘The Light At The End Of The World’ album)
‘I Know You’re With Him’ (unreleased)
‘Nightmares’ (from 1983 ‘Listen’ album)
‘The More You Live, The More You Love’ (from 1984 ‘The Story Of A Young Heart’ album)
‘Transfer Affection’ (from 1983 ‘Listen’ album)
‘Say You Love Me’ (from 1995 ‘The Light At The End Of The World’ album)
‘Some Dreams’ (unreleased?)
‘Man Made’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
‘Lovers & Strangers’ (unreleased)
‘Telecommunication’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
‘Space Age Love Song’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
‘Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)’ (from 1983 ‘Listen’ album)
‘I Ran’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
‘Messages’ (from 1982 ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ album)
Support this evening came from Beautiful Mechanica which stylized all in lowercase and the brainchild of London based singer songwriter, dreampop artist and international stage performer Graham Sampson. His work draws comparison to Cocteau Twins with echoes of artists such as Gary Numan, Japan and John Foxx.
Having been quiet with this particular project since 2019, as he is also in Smiths tribute act The Smyths as Morrissey, this year has witnessed Graham putting together a new beautiful mechanica band consisting of his friend of 30 years, guitarist Dougal Clunie, plus the trio of keyboardist Steve Bellamy, drummer Warren Farr and bassist Ian Medany who are from synth outfit Greenhaus, who I seem to recall seeing supporting Gary Numan at Shepherds Bush Empire back in 2001 and that they did a wicked remix of Numan’s ‘I Die: You Die’ for the ‘Random 2’ compilation album that I own, which came out three years prior.
Beautiful Mechanica have been rehearsing for this run of live shows and as we learned this evening will be recording material for release over the coming months. The band’s line-ups have previously supported Heaven 17, Big Country and Jesus Jones many times as well as Spear of Destiny, Chrysta Bell, Toyah, The Primitives, The Woodentops, Martin Rev. Over the course of his discography and live performances, Graham has collaborated with trusted musical partners such as Van Naarden, Grace Hicks, Porcelain, Martin Okasili and actor Luisa Prosser. As well as live work and digital music releases, Graham has provided music for independent filmmakers and has a focus on his work’s placement within film and television production and live events.
This evening’s Beautiful Mechanica half dozen song set commenced at 8:15pm and concluded 29 minutes later at 8:44pm. During that time their sound was crisp and rather loud, chest thumping loud actually, but I guess that’s what happens when you stand immediately in front of the stage speakers!
The quintet opened with ‘The Goodbye Moment’, which initially commenced as a slow drumpad laden number, but soon morphed into something else altogether. This was followed by ‘This Dark Is Your Soul’, which surely has to be a contender for a Gary Numan song title if I’ve ever heard one! The vocals on this weren’t Numanesque but Bowieesque. ‘Show Your Heart’ certainly caught my attention with Medany’s decent basswork sounding not too far off Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’. Sampson’s vocal delivery on this number was rather decent and although only half way through their set, the punters were well on side. In fact, although tonight didn’t quite sell out, the folks that were attending, appeared to already be in situ for beautiful mechanica which was most encouraging.
Selection four was ‘Always The Same’ which benefited from another decent backbeat and this time Sampson’s vocal delivery was heading toward Brian Molko (Placebo) territory. This track in particular, sat in very well and could have almost been a new A Flock Of Seagulls composition.
For the penultimate number, ‘The Space Between Us’, Sampson informed us that this was a new tune and that a top producer will be getting his hands on this. Although historically there’s a Numan connection with the band, you couldn’t really hear it this evening, but the tunes were similar to bouncy Bowie tunes.
They signed off with ‘Freezing’ which commenced with a Peter Hook style bass delivery, prior to the rest of the band joining in. This was another decent track with decent keyboards courtesy of Bellamy. As support bands go, this lot were bang on for what the punters were looking for, but clearly a relatively new outfit as opposed to a 1980’s heritage style act. I would see them again in their own right!
Graham Sampson – vocals, guitar
Dougal Clunie – guitar
Steve Bellamy – synths and programming
Ian Medany – bass
Warren Farr – drums, drumpads
Beautiful Mechanica setlist:
‘The Goodbye Moment’
‘This Dark Is Your Soul’
‘Show Your Heart’
‘Always The Same’
‘The Space Between Us’