Next month there is yet another weekend of concerts at The Roundhouse in London that I’d sell a kidney to attend. Last year it was the John Foxx analog synth show [where Gary Numan was relegated to a dj set!], and on Friday, October 14th, formerly reticent live performers Heaven 17 are performing their second, classic album “The Luxury Gap” in a live performance. That was a fantastic followup to the crucial “Penthouse + Pavement” debut album that turned the neat trick of taking the band from cult heroes to chart toppers while being a vastly different and expansive work that managed to sound like honest growth rather than dumbing down. No easy trick, that.
So yeah, the show will be great. Still, in this modern-a-go-go environment, you can barely swing a dead cat without hitting a band doing a “classic album” show of some sort. What makes this one so special, you might ask? Well, for starters, Martin Ware and Vince Clarke’s sound design company, Illustrious, will be mixing the sound in 3D. That’s not chopped liver, but it’s the next night at The Roundhouse that makes this one look like the “opening act” that it is. On the 15th, the show will be the debut of The British Electrical Foundation in a concert of Music Of Quality And Distinction – Live! B.E.F. was the “holding company” for all of Martin Ware’s productions outside of H17 and the 1981 album “Music Of Quality + Distinction vol. 1” is a high water mark of postmodern cover albums. It can be argued that they pioneered that conceit with its creation in the first place! [err… apart from David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, of course!]
So the MOQAD show will feature the band members of Heaven 17 playing with a host of guest vocalists, just like the two MOQAD albums [1981/1991]. Various singers will reprise their older roles and preview new songs from the yet to be released Music Of Quality + Distinction vol. 3 [it’s about time!]. Vocalists will be drawn from the band’s huge circle of friends and associates including:
- Boy George
- Midge Ure
- Kim Wilde
- Green Gartside
- Sandie Shaw
It your brain hurting yet? If you have any B.E.F. albums, you know how idiosyncratic and accomplished they are, so this is absolutely a once in a lifetime show.
In the weeks building up to the event, Martin Ware and Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 are doing a number of podcasts to drum up interest. Their monthly gig at Ditto TV, “Music For… A B.E.F. Special” has a new two hour webcast devoted to the “Music Of Quality + Distinction” series and event, which you can listen to here. I strongly recommend listening to it because you will be treated to rough mixes from the new MOQAD album as well as previously unheard recordings of Glenn singing The Associates “Party Fears Two” from their earlier tribute to Billy MacKenzie concert. You will rightly wonder how on earth anyone else could begin to approach that song but after hearing it, you’ll admit that Gregory found the right way to approach that iconic number and it’ll break your heart. Speaking of Billy MacKenzie and breaking your heart, Martin also plays an alternate mix of Billy’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” that features just the singer and strings which he says is from the forthcoming B.E.F. boxed set! You heard it here second, people!
Elsewhere Absolute Radio has a podcast [Electronic 80s with Heaven 17] hosted by Martin and Glenn where they interview their friends who are performing at the B.E.F. concert and the first episode has Green Gartside on the mic, which can be heard here. They also have the second podcast up with Kim Wilde to be heard here. Two more episodes will follow shortly. Being that I’m stuck in North Carolina with no one fronting me five grand to attend, I’m eternally grateful for the podcasts and [hopefully] inevitable DVD which is as close as I’ll be able to get to an event like this. The last few years have seen a rich wave of Heaven 17/B.E.F. activity and I find it hard to imagine anything topping this MOQAD show, but fervently hope that the guys will pull another rabbit out of their hat later on down the road. The new MOQAD album “Dark” will drop next year and I’m sure they’ll have something amazing up their sleeves for that!
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