BLANCMANGE were originally a duo comprising of Arthur and Stephen Luscombe with a brace of hit singles and three albums before disbanding in 1986. On their 2011 return, Luscombe sadly had to withdraw for health reasons so since then, Arthur has carried the BLANCMANGE torch.

‘Everything Is Connected’ and celebrating four decades of BLANCMANGE, Neil Arthur had a novel idea for this Very Best Of tour… he would support himself!

Augmented for both sets by percussionist Liam Hutton and synthesist Finlay Shakespeare, THE REMAINDER featuring Neil Arthur opened to a packed Islington Assembly Hall. All clothed in turquoise T-shirts emblazoned with a “Re” logo, how THE REMAINDER differ from BLANCMANGE is that the music is a three way collaboration between Arthur, Hutton and Shakespeare.

After the LCD SOUNDSYSTEM resonances and talk of “calcium build-up” of ‘Broken Manhole Cover’, ‘Hoarfrost’ entered more spacey midtempo territory and saw Arthur ironically quip “I don’t do nostalgia”. The ‘Evensong’ title song of their album released last year threw in some hypnotic motorik while to close an engaging set, ‘Dead Farmer’s Field’ offered angst in the vein of THE CURE; “the lot after us are a right rabble” amusingly announced Arthur beforehand, “their singer’s a diva!”

With the same trio on stage but wearing different hats, BLANCMANGE began their set with the proto-synth punk of ‘Again, I Wait for the World’; a song which was written in 1979 by Arthur’s art-school band L360, despite the 45 years since, it more than fitted in with the aural aesthetics of 21st Century BLANCMANGE.

With ‘Reduced Voltage’ representing BLANCMANGE in the present day via its groovy CAN precision, the first oldie of the evening came with ‘I’ve Seen The Word’, swiftly followed by ‘Feel Me’ where Arthur gave the enthused audience an invitation to dance to the tense TALKING HEADS meets JOY DIVISION amalgam.

What was most impressive was the sound in the venue and how well suited it was to rhythmic electronic music while adding an impressive new dimension with his waveshaping synth trickery was Finlay Shakespeare on his Nord Modular G2X based set-up. Meanwhile, Liam Hutton recreated the familiarity of the machine derived percussive mantras but gave proceedings a tidy looseness.

There was the welcome return of the first BLANCMANGE single ‘God’s Kitchen’ while ‘The Western’ and ‘Drive Me’ were recalled to represent the 2011 comeback long player ‘Blanc Burn’ and the beginning of this now highly prolific second phase. Also welcome was ‘Distant Storm’, possibly the best BLANCMANGE song of this era which despite being dream-like in its trance disposition revealed its spiritual kinship with ‘Feel Me’.

A “Heroes”-like stomp came on ‘Some Times These’ before the main set ended with BLANCMANGE’s two classic bangers ‘Living On The Ceiling’ and ‘Blind Vision’, the former’s exotic sitar hook now replaced by a massed football terrace chant. After some gentle persuasion, the encore presented a minimal cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’ using pizzicato-emulating patches before concluding with the final of BLANCMANGE’s three Top10 hits ‘Don’t Tell Me’

At the end, a humble Neil Arthur expressed his gratitude and namechecked his circle but saved his biggest thanks for the audience. As he surmised, the initial success and continued longevity of BLANCMANGE could not have happened without them.

In fine voice throughout while occasionally stoic in demeanour, this double dose of Neil Arthur including BLANCMANGE evergreens, new material and a recent side project was a fine evening’s entertainment that was appreciated by all.

Special thanks to Steve Malins at Random Management

‘Everything Is Connected’ is released by London Records as a 38 track double CD, 38 track download + 10 track coke bottle green vinyl LP

Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
4 June 2024