Back in 1997, it was a stunning revelation when the reactivated Heaven 17 actually embarked on their first tour ever, supporting their friends Erasure in concert. In some cases, Glenn Gregory found himself singing some songs for only the second time ever as he now had to engage in rehearsal for the first time. This was unprecedented from a band who swore that they would never tour back in their heyday, but by the late 90s the playing field for bands had changed in two ways.
First, the technology available to touring bands had exploded in the laptop era, and second, P2P was about to bring an end to the big money, big label era. That first tour was commemorated in 1999 by a live CD [!] by Heaven 17 called “How Live Is/LiveAt Last.” It documented the basic three member H17 setup along with backing vocalists Angie Brown and Billie Godfrey who were in tow from 1996’s excellent “Bigger Than America” reformation album. As live albums go, this was more of a surprising curio than mandatory purchase, but as it covered the Tour That They Said Would Never Happen, it quickly found its way into my Record Cell. If only to hear Heaven 17’s version of “Being Boiled.”
The band trundled along with the occasional new album [2005’s “Before After,” 2008’s “Naked As Advertised”] but mainly now toured; sometimes in packages, and some times as headliners. Heaven 17 played out live several times a year and managed a tour every now and then. In 2006 there was a 2xCD-R set of their November 29, 2005 show @ Scala via Live Here Now and a DVD of the set the next year. The DVD was released domestically in 2010 and it found its way into the Record Cell as well. Same lineup as before, but there was a third vocalist added to the BV choir… Lucy Jules. The set drew heavily from the electrodisco vibe of the “Before After” album. Again, as live album/videos go, it’s pretty much for fans only. This was the last point where founding member Ian Craig Marsh was still in the group before leaving to teach in 2008, but all he did was hold a headphone cup to his ear and press some buttons. In other words, a basic laptop gig. Nothing to see here folks… move along.
It was late 2011 when Heaven 17 announced the Metropolis gig on their website. This would be a premium gig for 115 fans only and it would be filmed for a TV series “Live At Metropolis Studios.” The idea being that it was an intimate gig filmed not unlike a vintage UK music show like “Ready Steady Go.” Band 10′ away on a hot stage right in your face. Guests were plied with a cocktail bar before and after the event and the after show party included Heaven 17 in a meet and greet with the fans. It went down on January 14, 2012. The price for this? A not inconsiderable £195 [plus V.A.T.] or $300 sound, American dollars. It came out in a DVD/CD package in 2013, and I bought my copy last October [thanks, Amoeba]. At the time I probably would have passed on this, even if I lived around the corner and not across the Atlantic. Sometimes… I am a fool!
Next: …Enough preamble…we dig into the package