Following the success of their joint gig at Manchester Academy earlier this year, two of Synth Britannia’s best loved combos HEAVEN 17 and BLANCMANGE will head out together for the first time ever this Autumn on ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’.
In 1984, former HEAVEN 17 member Ian Craig Marsh declared to Smash Hits that BLANCMANGE were his favourite band. Incidentally, both acts have also been declared key influences in the sound of LA ROUX.
The tour renews a professional link which was first forged back in 1981. HEAVEN 17’s Martyn Ware produced the demos that eventually got BLANCMANGE signed to London Records.
Back in January 2011, Neil Arthur told The Electricity Club: “He was absolutely fantastic, he was brilliant. He put us up in Sheffield, we recorded four songs over a weekend. Our publisher Cherry Red financed us to give us a leg up and Martyn helped us out. He produced the demos which helped us get the deal with London. It still took a while but we got there eventually, so thank you very much to Martyn Ware. While we were there, he played us ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ and I can remember him waxing lyrical about this sophisticated guitar playing. That was quite interesting”.
‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’ will not be even the second time the two acts have performed on the same stage either. Neil Arthur recalled back in 2012: “we did Godiva Festival with MIRRORS and HEAVEN 17… So it was really nice that there were electronic acts all together but one was a new band, two of them weren’t. I thought it was a fantastic idea”. BLANCMANGE released a deluxe edition of ‘Happy Families Too’ on Cherry Red earlier this year. It had initially been available on their 2013 Autumn tour.
Meanwhile HEAVEN 17 are working on their first album of new material since 2005’s ‘Before After’ set for a 2015 release. On a likely direction, Martyn Ware told TEC in May 2013: “it’s still in the birthing stage but I think we want to make it very electronic and stripped down, more so than even the BEF album… we always start off with this intention but it always ends up epic!! But I think we want to do something more in the vein of early HUMAN LEAGUE arrangements like ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling’ rather than ‘Temptation’. And focussing on the way we’ve been performing, as the two of us are almost the act now… I’ve been getting braver and braver and coming a little bit more to the front, the banter thing and all that! So it potentially, it could be more evenly balanced vocally than it has been in the past”.
In Spring 2014, Glenn Gregory added: “At the moment, it’s fairly loose… I’m doing that deliberately, the drum tracks are very basic and I’d say as guide, the tracks are more like the electronic side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ than ‘The Luxury Gap’ or ‘How Men Are’. Whether it will when we’ve finished, I don’t know. It’s feeling more ‘Travelogue’ era HUMAN LEAGUE / initial ‘Penthouse & Pavement’. It’s going to get pulled both ways so it could be a bit funky as well like early PRINCE”.
Martyn Ware celebrated his pioneering work with THE HUMAN LEAGUE in a well-received show for the 40th Anniversary of Virgin Records last November. It is quite possible that several of these numbers will be performed on ‘The Tour Of Synthetic Delights’. Whatever, the shows are sure to be an entertaining history lesson in the best of British electronic pop.
Neil Arthur said: “We are so excited to be going out on tour with such a fantastic band. These will be very special nights of Synthetic Delights. HEAVEN 17 and BLANCMANGE a marriage made in Heaven… which is better than a marriage made in BLANCMANGE (I think). The fans are going to have a night to remember those two bands fit perfectly together. The Tour of Synthetic Delights is going to be exactly that – HEAVEN 17 and BLANCMANGE at their synthetic best. If I wasn’t already going to be at these concerts, I’d go”.
‘The Tour of Synthetic Delights’ comes to the following UK venues:
Buckley Tivoli, (23rd October), Liverpool East Village Arts Club (24th October), Blackburn King Georges Hall (25th October), Newcastle O2 Academy (26th October), Leeds O2 Academy (6th November), Bedford Corn Exchange (7th November), Telford Oakengate Theatre (8th November), Southampton The Brook (9th November), London The Forum (13th November), Bristol O2 Academy (14th November), Leamington Spa The Assembly (23rd November)
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
14th October 2014