Tuesday, July 17, 2018


It was scheduled to be one of those weekends of music for us -- Retro Futura on Friday night, and Erasure on Saturday. Unfortunately, this is going to be another one of those write-ups that are more about me and the things going on that prevented me from really being fully present at this concert than about the concert itself.

We got our tickets to the Erasure show earlier in the year. Denise and I had both noticed that Erasure was booked to play the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on a Sunday night over the summer. Now Denise has always loved Erasure. I can take them or leave them. I like a few of their songs, and I seem to be one of the few who liked their 2017 World Be Gone album. (Comparing it to other albums released by '80s bands in 2017, I didn't like it as much as I liked the OMD album, but I liked it better than the Depeche Mode album, and maybe even better than the Blondie album). But I think a lot of their music was popular because it's very danceable, and as I explained in yesterday's post, I've never been a dancer or a dance club kid. Also I find that traveling into the city for a show is such a hassle these days -- I've gotten so used to Suffolk County's open spaces that going into Manhattan always feels like putting on a straitjacket. And don't even get me started on the traffic and the logistics of getting around there and parking. So when I heard the concert was in Manhattan, and on a Sunday night, I brushed it off.

But then, as that show sold out, they added a Saturday night show. (They would go on to add a Friday night show as well). At first, I was still of a mindset to ignore it, due to the Manhattan thing. But then I started to think about it. I knew that Denise really wanted to go. Now this was in the beginning of 2018, and things were starting to open up for us. Our children are older, and we started to experiment with leaving them for an overnight on their own, here and there. And I started realizing that as our kids were growing, Denise and I have spent the last 8 years so busy being parents that I didn't feel we were as connected as we used to be. Also, I was losing weight and feeling better physically -- more able to get around with wearing myself out. The band had an interesting opening act called Reed and Caroline, protegees of Vince Clarke of Erasure, which also made the show more attractive to me. So knowing that Denise would really enjoy it, I said, "Why not?" and told her to go ahead and get the tickets.

Unfortunately, shortly after that, things took a backwards turn in our life. As happens with parenting, there are steps forward and steps back, and as it turned out, the kids weren't as ready to be left unsupervised as we had originally thought. By the time we had figured this out, we already had tickets for Retro Futura and Erasure on back-to-back nights for this past weekend. I didn't think it was doable, and had already decided I'd go with her to the Westbury show, and we'd ask one of our friends to accompany her into the city for Erasure.

Then things changed again in a way that seemed to make things easier for seeing both shows. My son decided to go upstate for three weeks and work with his uncle. We dropped him off last weekend, and went back to our original plan. But it didn't work out the way we hoped. Just about as soon as we got him up there, he decided he wanted to come back home. We kept trying to get him to hang in there, thinking it would be good for him -- he'd make some money, learn more about building things, and get some time with his relatives. Things went back and forth, with a final decision being delayed until Saturday.

Friday night, we went to Retro Futura, as I already detailed, and had a pretty good time. By the time we got home, it was close to 1AM. Unfortunately, I had to stay up for a few more hours working on some notes for work, so when I got up for my Saturday morning Weight Watcher's meeting, I was already working short-sleeped. As I suspected, my son still wanted to come home. He actually wanted to take the train, which would have been good, as it would have spared us a drive up to Rome. However, after more than an hour online and on the phone with Amtrak (Their website is a mess! Try it sometime.) it became obvious that this wasn't going to work -- I had forgotten that Penn Station is in disarray all summer because they're refurbishing the damned thing. All of the Amtrak trains are being rerouted to Grand Central, and the LIRR service (which I'd need to go into the city and pick him up) was in shambles as well. It didn't help my mood that in the middle of figuring all of this out, I had to stop to mediate because while I was working trying to help him get home, he was on the phone fighting with his sister. Finally, it became apparent that the best of several bad choices was to just bite the bullet, go to the show, and then take off from there and drive all night to Rome.

After a (very) brief nap, we wound up leaving the house late, as Denise made several calls trying to book us a room up there so we could grab some sleep before we drove home. Then we got hit with a few more problems. Before we'd gotten too far, incredibly, my son was on the car phone again driving us crazy about another fight he was having with his sister. And as I tried to get him off of the phone, we hit a complete stop in the traffic on the LIE. It was now a guarantee that we were going to be late for the show.

Denise rolls with things much better than I do. By this time, I was mentally and emotionally done. I was hot, I was overtired, I was emotionally fried (I had been dealing with this situation with my son all week), and I was totally bummed that we were going to miss Reed and Caroline. And I wasn't even sure we were likely to make it there in time for the start of Erasure's set. (I also knew from looking up their setlist on setlist.fm that they were probably going to open with my favorite Erasure song, "Oh L'Amour"). We passed an Olive Garden restaurant, and I can tell you that if I didn't know Denise really wanted to go to the show, I'd have liked to just stop, unwind during a leisurely dinner, skip the show entirely, and just drive upstate after dinner.

Once we got past the accident on the Long Island Parking Lot (as the LIE is not-so-affectionately known), we actually made reasonable time into and across the city. Denise had prepaid for parking at a nearby lot, which we found with no problem. We made it to the Beacon at about 8:40PM, missing Reed and Caroline entirely, but with enough time to settle into our seats before Erasure started. We were seated in the balcony, and the Beacon being a pretty old theater, there aren't elevators (that I know of, anyway). So we got out our ropes and grappling hooks, and Denise, our pet mountain goat and I scaled the two flights of stairs up to our seats with a minmum of yodeling. By this time, I was just glad to relax for a few hours before our all-night drive.

As predicted, Erasure opened up with "Oh L'Amour", which was good. As soon as they played the last note of the song, I went back inside to get us some waters (we were parched by the summer heat, the long drive, and the hike up to the balcony). Then I settled in as the music just washed over me.

In all honesty, I didn't really enjoy the show at all, but it had nothing to do with Erasure. (I'm so freaking dyslexic -- I keep typing them as "Earsure"!). The house was totally rocking, people were up and dancing, and I guarantee you, I was pretty much the only person in the theater that didn't have a good time. But by that time, I just wanted to flash forward to being done with the all-night drive and settle into bed at our motel in Herkimer.

Here are some observations I can give you about the concert:

1. The band (Andy Bell and Vince Clarke) had two backup singers of questionable gender. (I actually spent a good part of the night musing about this question. I asked Denise, but she wasn't sure who was what either.) There was a skinny singer dressed in a man's suit, who I'm pretty sure was actually a woman. (I detected breasts). Then there was a fleshier person wearing a corset and a skirt, who may or may not have been a man. (Their vocals were turned down somewhat in the mix, but I definitely heard at least one female voice.) Neither was, as they say, a "spring chicken".

2. Andy Bell's outfit was frightening, although at least we'd been pre-warned about it. As the night wore on, he stripped down to a tatooed, flesh-colored onesy leotard. He is also not a spring chicken. He has a bit of a pot belly, and once again, I saw breasts. (Not making fun of the man's body -- he's actually in much better shape than I am. I am making fun of his fashion sense. But then again, I'm sure that so was he.)

3. I want Vince Clarke's job. He's the most relaxed mf'er I've ever seen on a stage, even more so than Stephin Merritt (who is not so much relaxed as mopey). He has most of his music pre-programmed, so that he mostly just pushes a button here and there, then lets the music pour forth. I'm pretty sure he's already got next year's tour, and the year after's as well, programmed in there already. Once in awhile, he straps on an acoustic guitar. He might have even strummed it occasionally.

4. The stage was visually interesting. Andy Bell played and danced mostly at the front of the stage on stage level. Behind him, on either side, was a lit door frame with a short stairway, once for each of the two backup singers. (Did he ever even introduce them? I don't remember if he did). There was another door frame in the middle, which led up to a lit balcony center stage, where Vince played (or didn't) all night, above the others' heads.

5. The Beacon Theater is pretty old, and when everyone dances, you can feel the whole balcony bounce. I posted on Sputnik about this, and suggested that it would collapse one day, and I was glad that that day hadn't been on Saturday. But one of my friends on there assured me that the fact that it's flexible and moves is actually a good thing, and makes a collapse less likely. I'll take his word for it. Nevertheless, I was going to suggest that if you go to the Beacon, you sit downstairs. But then I thought about it, and realized you wouldn't want the damned thing coming down on top of you either. So don't worry about it, just go and enjoy yourself. It won't come down. Probably.

6. They played about five songs from the new album, and I realized that the reason a lot of '80s fans aren't crazy about it is that it's much slower and less danceable than their older material. The band used the songs in this show mostly to give poor Andy a rest -- he moves around a lot, and he's got to be at least in his fifties. The new songs were received politely, if not enthusiastically. Most of the crowd probably needed a break from all the dancing as much as Andy did. They, too, were not all "spring chickens".

7. I was sorry they didn't play my favorite number from the World Be Gone album, "Still It's Not Over". But I knew they probably wouldn't. According to setlist.fm, they've only played it three times during the whole tour.

8. They played a 21-song set, with a 1-song encore, "A Little Respect".

9. My favorite songs of the night were "Oh L'Amour", "Love to Hate You", a cover of Blondie's "Atomic", and "A Little Respect". Denise also mentioned "Blue Savannah Sun" as a highlight.

In retrospect, I'd say that Erasure put on a really good show. I wish I could have seen it a day or so later, when I'd have been in more a mindset to enjoy it. I also wish I'd seen Reed and Caroline. I've watched a couple of their videos since then, and I liked them, so I ordered their new album. (And one of these days, I'll probably review it). Not sure if Erasure's crowd dug them, though. The general feedback Denise seems to be getting from her WLIR group is that everyone thought they were pretty weird.

Anyway,  hope that in spite of my sour emotional state for the night, I was able to give you a general sense of what the show was like. I'm going to bet that for most of the crowd that was there, they're going to rate it as one of their favorite shows of the year. As for me, I'm just glad we were sitting far enough away that my blurry eyes didn't really get a clear look at Andy Bell's onesy.