News / Arts & Entertainment

After 28 Years, Spandau Ballet Returns to US

Spandau Ballet members Gary Kemp, John Keeble, Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and Martin Kemp, from left, pose for a photograph during the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, March 13, 2014.
Spandau Ballet members Gary Kemp, John Keeble, Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and Martin Kemp, from left, pose for a photograph during the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, March 13, 2014.
Katherine Cole
Eighties hitmakers Spandau Ballet created quite a buzz during the recent South By Southwest (SXSW) music and film conferences in Austin, Texas.

Spandau Ballet’s first hit “To Cut a Long Story Short” charted in 1980. Since then, they’ve sold more than 25 million albums and played concerts in huge arenas worldwide.

Their performance in Austin, Texas, marked the band’s first show on a U.S. stage in 28 years. It was also the first time in decades they played a venue with room for only 600 people.

Drummer John Keeble described the experience as “inspiring and fantastic.”  

“It’s the smallest gig we’ve done for many a year," he said. "There’s something very visceral about being in a small room with people right up close and personal. Probably one of my favorite gigs.”
 
After 28 Years, Spandau Ballet Returns to US
After 28 Years, Spandau Ballet Returns to USi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Singer Tony Hadley says playing in a small club means there are no secrets.

"There was no trickery. It was just the five guys plugged in," he said. "Gary had four little pedals and that was it. There was no hard disk behind us or anything like that. It was totally real.”​

Formed in the late 1970s in London, Spandau Ballet were leaders in rejecting the extravagant ugliness of the punk music scene, and played a leading role in the British New Wave movement called the New Romantics. They changed their look as often as their sound, getting funky with the hit “Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On).”

But it was when the band released a completely different sort of song, a dreamy synth-pop ballad, that the band had its biggest worldwide hit, “True.”
 
Spandau Ballet, left to right, John Keeble, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp © 1981 Lynn Goldsmith
Spandau Ballet, left to right, John Keeble, Steve Norman, Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp © 1981 Lynn Goldsmith


Bass player Martin Kemp says Spandau Ballet’s show in Austin left the band excited about the prospect of returning to the U.S. for a full tour.

“You know, we’ve played those songs a million times for people in Europe and know what those songs mean to people when you play them," he said. "Here, we thought maybe the only song that everyone’s going to know is 'True.' But it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone was into the band from the beginning. I thought it was a really special moment. I agree with John, I actually think it was one of my favorite gigs we’ve ever done.”

So why did it take 28 years for Spandau Ballet to return to the United States? Two reasons: First, the band’s 1985 tour was cut short after saxophonist Steve Norman injured his knee in Los Angeles, California. Then, at the end of the 1980s, the band split up in a bitter fight over royalties.

“Listen, we found it hard enough to come back to each other, that took us nearly 20 years, let alone come back to America," said Gary Kemp, the band’s lead songwriter.  "So, it’s not like we’ve been ignoring America for 28 years. We were ignoring ourselves for 20 of those years.”
    
Spandau Ballet’s breakup is covered in the film “Soul Boys of The Western World,” which had its debut at the SXSW conference.

Steve Norman admits it was hard to watch the documentary in front of an audience.

“There’s a lot of anguish in there, you can see it," he said. "We were so close, we went to school together. And then to see how it all fell apart. It’s very emotional. And the other day, because there were people there, it became much more emotional. I had tears in my eyes once or twice.” 
 

Spandau Ballet reunited in 2009 for a 30th anniversary tour and, true to form, showed off a new sound with “Once More,” an unplugged, acoustic album. 

Their next world tour is scheduled to start either later this year, or early in 2015.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dan from: Austin TX
April 09, 2014 12:13 PM
I was at the concert during SXSW. Incredible show. It had lots of energy and was a in a great venue. I had no idea that they had not played the states in 28 years. That made the concert that much more special.
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: Washington, DC
April 10, 2014 10:49 AM
Ah, you're the envy of many people around the globe. That was a very special show! I hope you'll stick around and check out our music programs!

by: Eduardo Olvera from: Mexico
April 07, 2014 11:33 PM
Great band, great songs I remember 70‘s and 80‘s, long nights dancing with a old friends thanks for all songs
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: Washington, DC
April 08, 2014 9:06 AM
Hi Eduardo! Glad you enjoyed the story. It was a fun interview.
KC

by: John FH from: Cambridge, MA
April 04, 2014 5:45 PM
Loved this piece...so great to hear a 'feel-good' story from a band from that era. I am truly looking forward to seeing the documentary. Thanks for reminding me of this excellent music!
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: Washington, DC
April 08, 2014 9:03 AM
Thanks for your comment---glad you enjoyed the story. No word on a US release for the film, but keep checking back!

by: HeatherV from: Los Angeles
April 03, 2014 10:37 PM
Great piece! Brought me back to high school days: Duran Duran, Culture Club, Simply Red...plus the soundtrack from Breakfast Club. 80s music unfairly gets a bad rap. Mark my words, even parachute pants will make a comeback! Thanks for the memory, Katharine!
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: Washington, DC
April 04, 2014 10:51 AM
Thanks Heather! Speaking of 80s fashion, did you check out the trailer for Soul Boys of the Western World??? If not, clink on the link above.

by: Tricia
April 02, 2014 5:06 PM
I still love those boys like it's 1985! Can't wait for the film to be released! And-- they're finally going to tour the US! Road trip, ladies! Katherine Cole, you're a lucky girl, good job.
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: DC
April 03, 2014 11:58 AM
Thanks Tricia. Very fun interview--hope you get a chance to see the tour! BTW, we've got lots of music programs on VOA--you can find the archive of my past shows and all the others here: http://www.voanews.com/archive/roots-branches/20140303/672/1461.html

by: MissTrish from: Austin, TX
April 02, 2014 4:38 PM
Thank you for this lovely piece on one of my very favorite bands! Spandau Ballet was the absolute highlight of my SXSW this year. I was lucky enough to attend Soul Boys of the Western World as well be in the front row during their set at the Vulcan Gas Company and at the Paramount during their song (Satellite of Love) at the Lou Reed Tribute Show. There's a lot of love for them in the US of A and I'm so pleased to hear that a tour is being discussed.
In Response

by: Katherine Cole from: Washington DC
April 03, 2014 12:00 PM
Lucky you! Thanks for stopping by--hope you'll check out some of my other programs here (and all our other music shows, too!)
KC

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”