By Keith Sharp
When you are the co-founder of a supergroup, it’s hard to let the project go, especially when there have been serious reformation attempts throughout the years. So, Spandau Ballet tenor saxophonist Steve Norman continues the band’s legacy, performing band classics like “True,” “Gold,” and “Through The Barricades” which were staple hits during the band’s peak popularity in the mid-1980s.
On Saturday November 26th at Toronto’s El Mocambo Tavern and on Sunday November 27th at Mississauga’s Classic Bowl venue, Norman brings his own band to Toronto’s El Mocambo and Ed Sousa’s Mississauga Classic Bowl location where he will perform classic Spandau Ballet hits along with some of his own compositions. Fellow Brit Nick Richards’ Boys Don’t Cry will provide an opening set.
“As much as it pains me that my main band (Spandau Ballet) is not currently a working unit, I simply cannot let this important milestone slip by without further pomp and ceremony,” Norman explained over the phone from Berlin where his current Sleevz band; comprising of himself on lead vocals/saxophone/guitar/percussion, Sabrina Winter/vocals, Joe Becket/keyboards/Norman’s son Jaco Norman/bass and Paul Cudderford/ drums are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Spandau’s `Journey’s To Glory debut album release with select European dates having already executed a successful U.K tour.
“Spandau will always have a special place in my heart,” Norman says of original band mates Tony Hadley/vocals, Gary Kemp/guitars, Martin Kemp/bass, and John Keeble/drums. “This tour features myself with my band, treading a fine line between our interpretation of the songs whilst keeping true to the integrity of Spandau’s original versions.”
Formed in 1979, school chums Norman and Gary Kemp, linked up with Tony Hadley and John Keeble at the same Dame Alice Owens school with Gary’s brother Martin joining what proved to be the classic band lineup. Releasing their debut single; “To Cut A Long Story Short” in 1980, Spandau Ballet quickly became a fixture in Britain’s New Romantic dance movement along with Duran Duran, enjoying chart success with their debut album, `Journey’s To Glory’ release. But it was their third album; `True’ which provided the single of the same name which laid the foundation for the band’s legacy.
Norman explained that “True” was a conscious decision to go more mainstream in 1982/83. “We tapped into our pop/soul roots to evoke Marvin Gaye, Tamla Motown, Al Green et al,” he noted. “Gary started to write songs that were in this vein, and I convinced the rest of the band to buy me a second-hand saxophone which was right up my street. The sax fitted the sounds we were making perfectly. And Gary then wrote the songs which summed up the sunshine, cozy grooves and warm tones that we wanted to create with that `True’ album as a whole. That’s the reason we went to Compass Point in The Bahamas to record it.
“True” went to No 1 in the U.K and Canada and No 5 in the United States and recently won a BMI Award for 4 million plays which is the equivalent of 22 years of continuous airplay.
“That song touched a nerve with the public, DJs would play it twice in a row on national radio,” Norman enthused. “It has become universal and recognizable globally and also features this really cool sax solo in the middle written by yours truly.”
Further album successes with their follow-up `Parade’ album confirmed Spandau Ballet’s global appeal which was cemented by their appearance in the Band Aid video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas. This was followed by their subsequent three-song performance July 13th, 1985, at London’s Wembley Stadium when they joined an all-star cast before a live audience of 72,000 fans and a global television audience of an estimated 1.3 billion people in 130 countries as part of Bob Geldof’s Global Jukebox fund raiser for the people of Ethiopia, raising over $124 million.
“A magical day,” agreed Norman. “The crowds, the bands. It just seemed that every band that was happening during that period, was performing at Live Aid” referring to the likes of Queen, U2, David Bowie, Paul Young, Elton John et al.
Unfortunately, infighting within the band over publishing royalties disrupted Spandau’s momentum following their 1986 `Through The Barricades’ album and their 1989 `Heart Like A Sky’ release would be the bands last for 20 years with Gary and Martin venturing into movie and television roles; (both in The Krays movie, Gary in Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard and Martin in television series The Outer Limits and Highlander).
Spandau Ballet did reunite for their Reformation Tour in celebration of a new 2009 album `Once More’ and again in 2014 for a `Greatest Hits’ tour but Hadley quit again to execute a solo tour and the Kemps’ also ventured off on their own projects. Norman himself, relocated to Ibiza, Spain , pursuing his love of dance music, spending the past 12 years being involved in various projects and compilations.
Aside from his dance projects, Norman became a much in demand session player performing with the likes of Iggy Pop, Heaven 17, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Nick Heyward and Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock. But performing in his own band has always been his primary motivation and the reason he felt compelled to keep Spandau Ballet’s legacy alive.
“Spandau is a big part of me, and I am proud of their achievements,” Norman allowed. “The 40-years anniversary of our first album release was something we needed to celebrate. Quite simply, there are limited possibilities of hearing the songs performed live again by one of the original members, as sadly Spandau will never perform together again. So here we are, Steve Norman & The Sleevz spreading the Spandau love.”
Tickets are available at these links
El Mocambo ticket link
Classic Bowl Request Ticket link