Category: Live Reports (Page 3 of 36)


In the midst of time, the matinée concert was once a common occurrence and even during the Synth Britannia years, OMD, DEPECHE MODE and ULTRAVOX were among those who participated.

With increasingly mature music audiences and families in tow, particularly within synth-based music, an afternoon music event is ideal and when it finishes, dinner can be served and the train journey home can circumnavigate the often unpredictable nuisance of pub closing time.

The brainchild of Dom Cresswell, Duskwaves have hit upon the idea of using off-peak periods at venues and presenting them with an opportunity to boost business. The brand began modestly with a 2021 event in the Kent record shop Decktronix, but an April event at The Cavendish Arms near Battersea showed real potential in the daytime concept. This particular edition of Duskwaves formed part of the Medway Council sponsored Intrafest festival to support local businesses and the location was the relaxing dining garden of the Rochester Pizza Lounge next to the river.

Dom Cresswell is also behind AUW aka ABANDONED URANIUM WORKINGS, a musical umbrella that over two decades has embraced techno, breakbeat and now synthwave while in between, there was production of the acclaimed 2009 album ‘Navigation’ by ARTHUR & MARTHA featuring his brother Adam Cresswell, CEO of the boutique label Happy Robots Records. It was the older Cresswell who now records as Rodney Cromwell that eased the crowd into the afternoon with a curated selection of tunes that included NATION OF LANGUAGE, DEPECHE MODE, NEW ORDER and LADYTRON alongside Donna Summer and Gemma Cullingford.

But to open the live element of Duskwaves was INFRA VIOLET, the Brighton-based duo comprising of Bethany Munroe and Toby Campen; incidentally the latter’s father was a member of GREY PARADE who opened for Gary Numan on his 1985 UK tour. Their synth rock flavoured debut album ‘Dream Tether’ has been well received with Munroe’s heartfelt vocals being singled out for praise. Performing in the open air with traffic running on the road behind them on an immensely sunny day without the trimmings of stage lighting is not ideal.

But INFRA VIOLET took to their set with a warm injection of enthusiasm, aided by their instrumental versatility. Originating from more rock-oriented climes, INFRA VIOLET were inspired to take up synths by the international success of CHVRCHES.

Opening with ‘Polaroid’, its gothwave demeanour stood out in the sunshine but a synthy insistence provided the drive. Their most streamed track ‘Grow’ exuded optimism and brightness to highlight why they have found a synthwave audience. Meanwhile the most recent single ‘Easy’ pointed to more countrified climes despite the electronic backdrop as the soulful confession of ‘Mess’ closed their set.

AUW’s live set began with the marvellous instrumental ‘Europa Dusk’ from the new ‘Twilight Drives’ album before charismatic vocalist Sebastian Durkin joined on stage. With a growling stage persona was reminiscent of Samuel T Herring of FUTURE ISLANDS, this approach was particularly effective on ‘The Window Show’ while Durkin also took to singing to passers-by on the street during ‘Concrete Panorama. Leaving Cresswell to finish solo, the lush beat-laden chillwave of ‘Yellow & Confidence’ provided some aural air conditioning to proceedings.

Undertaking her first ever DJ set, Dawn Taylor did as her Synthwave83 moniker suggested, with the digital slap bass frenzy of ‘Officewave’ from DREAMKID among one of the tracks to warm up those present for the headliners YOUNG EMPRESS.

“Drink Tab, play Robotron, listen to DURAN DURAN” is the motto of unrelated Dudley duo of Rebecca Davies and Robin Davies. Strong on the visual aspect of their presentation, they produced their own supernatural teen angst short film story that featured four songs from the debut long player ‘Lost Time’ issued by Aztec Records. But for this afternoon’s performance, it was a stripped down set-up with no film backdrops or their usual accompanying keyboardist.

YOUNG EMPRESS took to the challenge with aplomb, beginning with ‘Peacemaker’ which strangely recalled one of the thematic sections of John Miles’ epic 1976 hit ‘Music’ and displayed some excellent six string work. One of the ‘Lost Time’ highlights ‘Eyes Closed’ saw its glorious synth work shine albeit via the backing track while the keys and guitar interplay of ‘Christine’ evoked a less frantic ‘Oh Jungleland’ by SIMPLE MINDS. Ending Duskwaves with the wonderful ‘Ghosts’, this was folk-tinged popwave with emotive contralto vocals that provided strength to escape from the darkness.

But darkness was still some way off as all the acts packed up their equipment in the garden of the Rochester Pizza Lounge. It was an enjoyable relaxed event in which the time simply flew by. With pizza, panini, waffles and ice cream served with synths, Duskwaves was proof that daytime gigs really are the future…

The next Duskwaves takes place at Electric Medway in Rochester Victoria Gardens in Chatham on Friday 19th August 2022 from 1.30pm to 6.30pm – entry is free, info at

Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
19th July 2022

xPROPAGANDA Live in London

With “x” marking the spot in 2018, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag launched themselves as xPROPAGANDA to perform ‘A Secret Wish’, the 1985 album released by ZTT which was recorded with their former bandmates Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens as PROPAGANDA.

Dubbed “ABBA in hell”, the quartet’s album was produced by Stephen Lipson and heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis. But during those shows, Brücken and Freytag realised they needed more material.

With Lipson on-board to helm a brand new album, the end result has been an excellent collection of songs entitled ‘The Heart Is Strange’; both a debut and a continuation, the sonically satisfying long player was given its live debut at The Garage, the very venue where xPROPAGANDA became an entity.

The nine piece live ensemble was crammed onto the small stage with Brücken and Freytag joined by Lipson and David Rainger on guitar as well as James Watson and Philip Larsen on keyboards. Drummer Paul Jones and percussionist Luís Jardim were almost hidden on opposite sides of the stage while Nick Mead made appearances as appropriate on Flugelhorn and trumpet.

Beginning with the first seven tracks from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ in order, ‘The Night’ provided a lively cacophony of sequenced digitised bass, crashing beats and sweeping synthetic strings in true ZTT style with a long intro before Brücken broke into song. However feedback, particularly on Freytag’s mic and the buffering glitches on the visuals made it a shaky start.

More metronomic, ‘Chasing Utopia’ saw Freytag offer her distinctive spoken harmony next to Brücken before an alluring German monologue. Lyrically, ‘The Heart Is Strange’ has focussed on the world’s socio-political landscape and with commentary on fake news as well as social media’s unrealistic representation of beauty culture, ’Beauty Is The Truth’ came over quite aggressively with the two Germans sparring in their contrasting vocal styles.

Sounding at times like PET SHOP BOYS ‘Rent’ in its bassline, ‘Only Human’ acted as a moody breather although a synthetic rock edge propelled ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ while with an exotic swirl, ‘No Ordinary Girl’ saw Freytag make reference to ‘A Secret Wish’ with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”.

One of the best numbers on ‘The Heart Is Strange’, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ gave a stark warning on rise again of extreme right wing agendas. Despite its bounce and superb twin guitar interventions, the message was poignant coming from two Germans whose grandparents’ generation had made the mistake of opening up the door to the Nazis by “doing nothing” and looking away.

The world needs to listen to people who know and understand that the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and their band of merry posh boys are actually veiled fascists with no interest in the plight of the British people. Only there to line the pockets of themselves and their mates, they are drunk on power with no motivation to govern, all while hobnobbing with criminal Russian oligarchs. The US saw common sense and toppled Trump, so that fraudulent grifter who pretends to be a Prime Minister needs to be next on the list…

The use of Brothers Grimm imagery in ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ was also highly appropriate, especially in relation to the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, a vile woman so evil that comedian Bill Bailey accurately described her as “Cruella de Vil without the self-confidence issues…”

With their repertoire now satisfactorily expanded, the final third of the show featured highlights from ‘A Secret Wish’, beginning with the unsettling cinematic glory of ‘Dr Mabuse’. The machine rhythm of ‘The Murder Of Love’ maintained the momentum while with an equally percussive rumble, the cover of JOSEF K’s ‘Sorry For Laughing’ headed towards a powerfully enjoyable ‘P: Machinery’ to close the main set.

For the encore, Brücken gave a spirited first verse of ‘Duel’ backed by solo piano before the band joined in on the chorus, accompanied by the rousing crowd for a nostalgic high. With the love clearly being felt in the room, Freytag poetically took the lead on ‘Ribbons of Steel’, the cinematic closer from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ to finish. With a haunting narrative on the post-war division of Germany and The Berlin Wall which physically and ideologically split families, friends and lovers, its Cold War references had resonances with today’s world events.

Presented as a starker 21st Century follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’ from ‘A Secret Wish’, with the declaration that “I’m trapped on the wrong side, or is it the right side”, the sentiment could be applied to those with common Ukrainian / Russian heritage now set against each other in a pointless war or closer to home in history, those Chinese seamen that served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War who were suddenly rounded up and deported with their British-born families never told of their fate; more recently, there has been the disgusting Windrush scandal.

Those heinous repatriation policies fronted by that smirking race traitor Ugly Patel, in her own belief that her status is smugly safe as a Cooper, only highlighted the total lack of humanity existing in the current Tory government and provided food for thought…

Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag said: “We always thought it was a shame that an album as distinctive and acclaimed as ‘A Secret Wish’ seemed destined to be a one-off”. Tonight in London, that situation was formally corrected and presented to many satisfied faces.

With thanks to Stuart Kirkham PR

‘The Heart is Strange’ is out now by ZTT in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

The ‘Secretstrange’ 2022 tour of Germany includes:

Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November)

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Chi Ming Lai and Richard Price
28th May 2022

PET SHOP BOYS Live at London O2 Arena

After a 2 year delay, PET SHOP BOYS finally got their ‘Dreamworld – The Greatest Hits Live’ underway and it did not disappoint.

With a 27 song set of which 16 came from the imperial phase of PET SHOP BOYS between 1985-1991 as documented on the ‘Discography’ compilation, it was a masterclass in pop. Even from the top of the cavernous O2, the sound was powerful, yet crystal clear, a far cry from the deafening bass heavy mush that required earplugs when Gary Numan played Norwich UEA the weekend before.

The show began with a simplistic set-up featuring Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe in metallic geometric masks with ‘Suburbia’, ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ and ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)’. As the stage opened up to reveal an elaborate stage design with a gantry for Lowe to now operate from, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)’ and ‘Rent’ prompted audience singalongs.

With so many songs to cram into 2 hours plus artful interludes to allow for costume changes, a number of songs were edited with ‘I Don’t Know What You Want but I Can’t Give It Any More’ seguing into ‘So Hard’ while ‘Single-Bilingual’ and ‘Se A Vida É (That’s the Way Life Is)’ effectively merged into one via their percussive mantras. Continuing the Latin flavour of the two, the marvellous ‘Domino Dancing’ was given a rare but welcome outing.

‘Monkey Business’ got the Sunday night disco up and running but ’New York City Boy’ presented the only lull of the set when ‘Paninaro’ would have been a better inclusion to maintain the momentum.

Tennant surprised all with an acoustic guitar and a rendition of ‘You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk’ but introducing the song as the first that he and Lowe ever wrote together, the drama of ‘Jealousy’ was boosted by some Shakespearean prose from ‘Othello’.

While most of the arrangements for the show remained close to the original hit versions, ‘Love Comes Quickly’ was given a more KRAFTWERK-based treatment. Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Losing My Mind’ from ‘Follies’ which PET SHOP BOYS recorded with Liza Minelli started a covers section which also including their 1987 Christmas No1 ‘Always on My Mind’ while showcasing one of their more recent singles, the utopian ‘Dreamland’ proved that Tennant and Lowe can still knock out a catchy pop tune as good as ‘Heart’.

Backed by a multi-talented trio who moved between keyboards, electronic drums and backing vocals, one of their number Clare Uchima came out front to delightfully deputise for the late Dusty Springfield on ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’.

PET SHOP BOYS’ rework of Sterling Void’s house classic ‘It’s Alright’ was more relevant than ever with its environmental concerns but adopting a more escapist tone, ‘Vocal’ showed that at the age of 67, Neil Tennant is still not too old to rave.

The 20,000 strong chant of “TOGETHER” lifted the roof off the O2 during ‘Go West’ while given a modern EDM twist but still maintaining its strong emotional resonance, the magnificently evergreen ‘It’s A Sin’  closed the main part of the evening under a blinding array of lights and projections.

Returning to a reconfigured bare stage for the encore, Tennant donned his long coat and Lowe his ‘Boy’ cap for a rendition of their first hit and No1 ‘West End Girls’ before ‘Being Boring’ formally ended proceedings with a dedication to those who had lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Far from being boring, time really did fly by and as far as concerts went, this was close to perfection. Tennant in particular was in fine voice while Lowe’s programming was tight and authentic, the antithesis of the lame arrangement approximations undertaken by other acts for their live presentations in their vain efforts for rockist credibility.

DEPECHE MODE for one should take note and learn from PET SHOP BOYS… just play songs as they are meant to be heard and don’t let the bloody drummer f*ck things up… simples 😉

PET SHOP BOYS 2022 ‘Dreamworld – The Greatest Hits Live’ UK tour continues:

Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (24th May), Bournemouth BIC Arena (25th May), Newcastle Utilita Arena (27th May), Birmingham Resorts World Arena (28th May), Glasgow SSE Hydro (29th May), Hull Bonus Arena (31st May)

Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
24th May 2022

CHINA CRISIS Live at The Stables


It was to Laurie Johnson’s iconic TV theme tune that Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon walked onto the stage to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of CHINA CRISIS as a recording act with the ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ show.

The location was The Stables in Wavendon, a village just on the edge of Milton Keynes; the venue had been originally established by jazz legends Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine in 1970, within the former stables block of their home, hence the name.

The entertainment began with a few anecdotes from Daly; an engaging raconteur who could probably get a spot on BBC comedy showcase ‘Live At The Apollo’, he apologised for the lack of visuals which has been seen at other shows, as the laptop containing them had been stolen from his car along with some stage clothes. But the story didn’t end there as Daly had thoughtfully placed a tracker on the computer and told of how the band gave chase and ended up at a local supermarket. They spotted the thief dumping the stage clothes into a charity recycling bin before legging it with the laptop!

It was an evening filled with laughter and music as Daly continued about how he and Lundon had met at St Kevin’s Catholic Boy School in Kirkby near Liverpool and began making music together, partly because they just about hated everyone else who attended! Similarly to OMD, the duo purchased their first synthesizer from a Kays mail order catalogue belonging to Lundon’s mother; it was familiar to Daly as he recalled, for the ladies’ underwear section, which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to add, was always easy to find as it was after the ladies shoes section!

Settling on a monophonic Yamaha CS10, Lundon used it to play just three notes on their debut single ‘African & White’.

It was at this point that the musical part of the show began with regular sidemen Jack Hymers on synth and saxophonist Eric Animan joined by a drummer, backing vocalist, bassist and another two guitarists (including Stuart Nisbet who played with CHINA CRISIS in 1986-87) to become Merseyside’s answer to BLAZIN’ SQUAD!

In true ‘This Is Your Life’ style, the setlist was primarily chronological as CHINA CRISIS ran through the highlights of their career and told the stories that behind them. Daly took joy in reminiscing about how they were signed by Virgin Records and became a “threat” to label mates and rival Merseyside duo OMD; “When Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey saw our photos, they must have thought ‘the game’s over’” Daly delightfully quipped.

But while OMD were affectionately the butt of the humour throughout the evening with the CC33 front man stating “we wrote about our girlfriends, but Andy McCluskey wrote about atomic bombs and genetics, typical pretentious sixth former…”, CHINA CRISIS were capable of haunting anti-war commentary too, as their first hit ‘Christian’ taken off the ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ album proved. Meanwhile ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ was an emotive observation on the plight of the working classes in Merseyside as it was ripped apart under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

Given a slight Mexican flavour, CHINA CRISIS’ biggest UK hit ‘Wishful Thinking’ was followed by its sister song ‘It’s Never Too Late’, a rare number even in the wider Crisis Canon and deservedly given a platform on this 40th Anniversary tour.

Written by Daly in response to the Lundon-penned ‘Wishful Thinking’, it was originally recorded as part of the ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ album sessions produced by Mike Howlett.

However ‘It’s Never Too Late’ was dropped from the tracklisting for having a similar Emulator I string aesthetic and arrangement despite being of equal quality; it ended up being a bonus song on the limited edition second 12” of ‘Black Man Ray’ so was hardly heard even by CHINA CRISIS fans until it showed up on the 2017 deluxe reissue of third album ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’. “We should have released it after ‘Wishful Thinking’, we would have had another international hit and wouldn’t be here!” bantered Daly, “Like how many times have OMD played The Stables??? Like NEVER!”

‘Black Man Ray’ closed the first half of the show, with Daly recalling the excitement of working with the late Walter Becker of STEELY DAN who was bowled over by the song’s catchy simplicity. But he warned the audience that the second half would feature less hits but still lots of good songs; this was delivered with ‘It’s Everything’ from ‘What Price Paradise’ and the 1986 album’s lead single ‘Arizona Sky’, a song which today sounds like the massive hit it never actually was.

After ‘Sweet Charity In Adoration’ off 1989’s ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ which had been recorded in Hawaii with Walter Becker and passing over the 1994 long player ‘Warped By Success’, CHINA CRISIS quickly moved onto songs from their crowdfunded comeback record ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ issued in 2015.

Following the smooth ‘Fool’, a tune developing on the soulful moods of ‘You Did Cut Me’ featuring Lundon on lead vocals, the show concluded with what Daly termed “a Saturday Night Disco”.

After the mature audience stood and danced to the bouncy pop grooves of ‘King In A Catholic Style’ and ‘Tragedy & Mystery’, the final wind down came with ‘My Sweet Delight’ from ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ as a poignant dedication to loved ones who have passed on…

While CHINA CRISIS didn’t achieve quite as many hits as their Virgin label mates OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and SIMPLE MINDS did, they still had enough of them to enable them to work with their musical heroes, see the world and are today still popular enough to tour regularly with North America as well as their first shows in Australia and New Zealand now on the 2022 itinerary.

With a 50th Anniversary tour unlikely as Daly joked to everyone present that “half of you won’t be here!”, this was an enjoyable and entertaining celebration of possible pop songs, savouring not just the music but the enlightening and comical stories that helped to inspire them as well.

‘What Price Paradise’ is reissued as a 3CD deluxe set by Virgin Records

The ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ live DVD is released on 22nd July 2022, pre-order from

CHINA CRISIS tour North America in June / July 2022 and Australia / New Zealand in December 2022 while they will be opening for Kim Wilde on her ‘Greatest Hits’ UK tour in September 2022

Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2022

NATION OF LANGUAGE Live at Lafayette

The rise of New York-based trio NATION OF LANGUAGE has been steady but as 2021 concluded, the UK took a keen interest, thanks to championing by BBC 6 Music.

This resulted in a sell-out 2022 British tour and an extra date at XOYO on the London leg after a premiere capital appearance in the more modest confines of Lafayette. However, the intimate surroundings of the latter was the perfect venue to showcase their sharp synthy spirit fused with a notion of anguish.

Front man Ian Devaney became interested in using synths after hearing OMD’s ‘Electricity’ in his father’s car. There is a distinct Northern Englishness about NATION OF LANGUAGE that also takes in JOY DIVISION while a Germanic precision can be identified in their rhythm construction.

It was no big surprise that an extremely warm welcome greeted the trio in London, with attendees ranging from beard hipsters and cool indie girls to middle aged bald men who might have worn long raincoats in their student days. Swathed in sequencers and electronic effects, ‘Rush & Fever’ from the debut album ‘Introduction, Presence’ opened the hour long set.

The evening’s styles varied from the wistful OMD atmospherics of ‘Wounds Of Love’ to the frantic NEU! gone post-punk thrash of ‘Across That Fine Line’. The excellent if blatant NEW ORDER homage ‘On Division St’ got the first big cheer of the evening and sounded even more like ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ live while with a hint of a more intense A-HA, there was the glorious electronic pop of ‘Friend Machine’ which examined society’s addiction to technology.

NATION OF LANGUAGE have an unusual stage dynamic that just works; Ian Devaney is anxious and energetic with the persona of someone who has been sacked from the much-missed MIRRORS for wearing a T-shirt. Meanwhile his wife Aidan Noell is the sexy synth minx who could easily be running a Brooklyn fashion boutique and rock solid bassist Michael Sui-Poi looks as if he belongs in an alternative rock band.

The second NATION OF LANGUAGE album is appropriately titled ‘A Way Forward’, but despite the cautious optimism from the future, it has been the songs such as ‘The Grey Commute’ and ‘This Fractured Mind’ that have connected to the reality of recent times for audiences. The former paid tribute to ULTRAVOX! and KRAFTWERK with hypnotic mechanised rhythms and octave laden backdrop, while the latter to cheers of approval has been the best song of 2021 for many with its incessant Motorik drive and catchy synth hooks.

Encoring with a great bleep ‘n’ buzz cover of THE PIXIES’ ‘Gouge Away’ that was no less agitated than the original, ‘The Wall & I’ closed proceedings as it did on ‘Introduction, Presence’.

Reminding the wider musical world that synths and drum machines can sit next to bass guitar for an absorbing danceable pop sound without any loss of soul or emotion, NATION OF LANGUAGE partied like it was 1980 and delivered with an enjoyable musical escape following a down trodden few months of uncertainty for all.

An engaging and spirited performance, the next time that NATION OF LANGUAGE tour the UK, you can be sure they will be playing much bigger venues.

‘A Way Forward’ is available in CD and vinyl LP formats, download available from

Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
4th February 2022

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