House of Blues, Orlando, FL • May 7, 2005
I have never been a big Erasure fan, their music has always seemed a bit too flamboyant for my tastes. My girlfriend, on the other hand, has wanted to see their live show since they first came onto the scene in the mid-80’s, so I decided to give them a more fair listen. I figured that if nothing else, it would be a colorful show to photograph. With little expectations on my part, we squeezed into a jam-packed House of Blues amidst a largely gay male crowd. My first thoughts: the House of Blues has never smelled better, and the line in the women’s restroom has never been shorter.
As show time neared, the opening act’s equipment was being setup in front of the curtain rather than behind, hinting at the elaborate nature of Erasure’s stage show. When the young boys from upstate New York, Elkland, walk out for their set they are poised on the edge of the stage and this only helps in their seduction of the crowd. Featuring Jon Pierce, a cute blond who dances theatrically as a lead singer, Elkland had already won the hearts of the majority of the audience. His voice is a little bit Morrissey and Robert Smith, and their sound is very New Order-ish. They have song titles like “I Think I Hate Her” and ” It’s Not Your Fault,” and were brave enough to cover The Cranberries “Salvation.” By the time they exited, the crowd has fallen in love enough to call for an encore that didn’t come.
With each passing minute the crowd got more compacted until there was little personal space between bodies, yet still everyone remained friendly. What I thought was a mostly gay crowd had turned out to be more diverse than I had predicted, with straight couples mingling with drag queens. Also notable was the virtual lack of security guards. As sold-out as the show was, they didn’t seem to be anticipating any of the usual drunken brawls or stage rushing. I settled into the impossibly tight photographer’s pit (shrunken down to half its usual size) and awaited to witness the phenomena that is Erasure.
Appearing in angel’s wings flanked by a pair of backup singers dressed as faeries, singer Andy Bell emerged to an overwhelming response from the capacity crowd and launched into the opening track off their latest release, Nightbird. After finishing the ballad, he took a moment to soak in the Orlando greeting, while the blue lights behind him, creating an eerie angelic silhouette. It’s a beautifully and chilling image considering his recent announcement of being HIV-positive. This is a thought I’m sure everyone had in their heads, but subconsciously agreed to not dwell on.
Each song was greeted with escalating applause as Andy and music mastermind Vince Clarke tossed in new classics like “Breathe” amongst old favorites like “Chains of Love,” “A Little Respect,” and “Stop!” One very enthusiastic fan managed to crawl his way onto the stage and into Mr. Bell’s arms, where he was greeted with a kiss. It was a fitting example of the free-spirited mood of the evening, everyone with the same agenda — to have a good time.
The stage looked like a deleted scene from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and in between costume changes Andy managed to strip down to his gold, sequined briefs. The show was every bit as colorful and theatrical as I had imagined, and a lot more fun than I had thought possible. It was an evening of flamboyance, dancing (even I caved in to the rhythm — and I don’t dance), and decadence: in other words, it was 1985 all over again.