Erasure – Live at the Hollywood Palladium, 25 October 2014

According to their first support act, KROQ DJ Richard BladeErasure have always been particularly popular in Southern California, although it’s difficult to know quite why that might be if so. Blade can certainly take some credit though, and he knew his audience tonight, running radio style competitions to give away tickets to future concerts, and playing hits from the 1980s.

The audience was surprising in many ways, actually – Erasure concerts in Europe tend to be enormous, flamboyant affairs, with a lot of make-up and dressing up. Not so in Los Angeles – there was a real mix, with groups of straight and gay men and women alongside pop fans and former Goths of all ages – and very probably mixes of all of those as well – the crowd really defied any kind of stereotyping. Admittedly there were two unicorns and one enormous Mohican haircut, but it was pretty laid back otherwise.

After the generally poor performance of their second support act Superhumanoids (they turn out to be a lot better in recorded form than when performing live, waving their arms around like the art performance from the TV series Spaced), Vince Clarke came on stage, barely seeming to notice the audience in front of him, and started playing the opening sounds of Oh l’Amour.

Andy Bell, appearing in steamed up sunglasses and a big hat, described the show as containing a lot of “12 inches” (I think that was some kind of innuendo), and the theme of big dance versions of songs was indeed a recurring one – in many cases, leaving the audience guessing for a couple of minutes exactly what might be coming next. Perhaps some live versions of the original 12″ mixes would have been worthwhile?

It was difficult to judge exactly who this show was for, too. Only three tracks from the newly released album The Violet Flame were included, despite the tour bearing the same name, and all three seemed to go down pretty well. Instead, this was very much a greatest hits set, with pretty much the entirety of the original Pop! collection being included. Much of the audience was expecting an eighties show, and that is what they got, but a few more surprises would have been welcome.

Apart from the 1987-1991 period, there was relatively little. Always seems to have justifiably cemented itself in Erasure fans’ minds, and has even become an encore, although surprisingly it does appear alongside Sometimes in a slightly ironic twist of naming (one hopes they are currently working on a track called Occasionally). The late 1990s were overlooked in their entirety, with a total of zero tracks from ErasureCowboyLoveboat, and Other People’s Songs combined, and their recent career was largely ignored too.

Joan was a pleasant surprise though, meaning their 1991 album Chorus was actually better represented than the new one, and the only really noticeable omission was Stop! which is typically a live favourite.

Andy Bell does have a hard time of it – with Vince Clarke generally trying to hide behind a computer, and seemingly trying his hardest to play as little live as possible, there’s no support coming from Bell’s bandmate. The two backing singers were amazing, but he does give himself a lot of work. It’s tempting to wonder how much the casual Erasure fans might have got out of the evening, but most of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves (admittedly, the ones close to me also seemed to be keen on trying to stamp on my feet and shove me out of the way, but maybe I’m getting old…)

Aside from the unusually poor acoustics of the Hollywood Palladium, it sounded pretty amazing from the audience, and I suspect it will sound good on the recording too, as it was being recorded for a future CD release. The second LA concert on Saturday night was likely recorded too, so the CD will probably combine the two. Keep an ear out for the audience singing blindly along to Always, even though the band have put a one bar break in between the choruses.

The setlist, disappointingly identical to all the North American tour dates this time around:

  1. Oh l’Amour
  2. Star
  3. Reason
  4. Breath of Life
  5. You Surround Me
  6. Elevation
  7. I Lose Myself
  8. Drama!
  9. Victim of Love
  10. Ship of Fools
  11. Sacred
  12. Breathe
  13. Joan
  14. Blue Savannah
  15. Chorus
  16. Love to Hate You
  17. A Little Respect
  18. Chains of Love
  19. Always (encore)
  20. Sometimes (encore)
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