Featuring Human’s Lib and Dream Into Action
HOWARD JONES is often thought of as the one man musical mastermind of synth-pop but when looked at fully, he’s so much more than that.
Howard Jones has been around since the early part of electronic music. One can argue he was a pioneer of the synths, the first “one man act” to emerge onto the scene and help fortify the ability, variety and importance of synthesized music. From the beginning, he came out with the bouncy and uplifting ‘New Song’ from his ground-breaking debut album Human’s Lib and followed it up with the ever wondering ‘What Is Love?’.
But not stopping there, he had even more success with his sophomore effort of Dream Into Action that spawned the hits ‘Look Mama’, the uplifting ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, ‘No One Is To Blame’ and the philosophical ‘Life In One Day’.
Many a year has passed since those songs first graced the airwaves but on Saturday, November 6th at the London Indigo2, you wouldn’t have known it. This was the setting for the recreation of those two albums that sparked our ears and hearts to the plinkering sounds of keys. And having had the honor to talk to HoJo earlier this year about this exact concert, I definitely was among the most excited in the crowd,anxiously waiting to see what he had so enthusiastically described to me to come to fruition.
There was no opening act, the stage and show was owned solely by Mr. Jones himself and at 8pm sharp, the lights went down and the sound of the crowd swelled up. Opening with Automaton, he hit the ground running. Before us lay the ever familiar layout of half circled synths but a bit more scarce since he now had the help of Robbie Bronnimann (and also the updated look of a Mac) Having gotten licensing permission from Warner Brothers for all his old recordings, the reproduction was amazing. As Howard sang into his ear strapped face mic, it was easy to see this was going to be a special night.
Visuals were a definite importance and we were introduced to a variety, starting with a futuristic looking Howard behind the man himself. Choosing to perform Dream Into Action in its entirety before Human’s Lib, ‘Why Look For The Key’ came next along with a few others filled with brightly colored graphical backdrops before the first special guest was brought out. It would make sense to include the people who had a good amount of influence and measure during the making and success of the first two albums and so, in HoJo’s words “it is a total privilege and pleasure to invite him onto the stage tonight and play along with one of my favorite songs… Mr. Rupert Hine” came walking out. They launched into ‘Look Mama’, and Rupert did his magic on the keys, often looking over to Howard with a huge and seemingly proud grin on his face. It was like a teacher being called back by a former student to a reunion, so very sweet.
Cheers filled the room as he waved goodbye and it was back to HoJo. Filling in space while setting up for the next song, he gave sincere thanks to the crowd and announced how very much he was enjoying doing all these old songs. No surprise there!
A few more tracks from the album brought us to the next special guest; this time the ever entertaining, Jed Hollie. With the sounds of Bounce Right Back starting in the background, he slinked onto the stage in a long trench coat and, with HoJo throwing on his own jacket and coming in for the fun, launched into an acting dance of playful, mysterious satire that saw Jed helping HoJo apply dark sunglasses and then together mime dance moves of the synchronized robotic nature. It was hilarious, though Howard had to eventually return to his keys, leaving Jed to continue on his own. He was extremely limber and agile and one could easily see how he had been an amazing addition to HoJo’s shows back in the day.
Finishing the set with a three punch round, we saw ‘Life In One Day’ given a very gospel-like ending with Howard harmonizing soulfully with back up singers Lizzie Deane and John Gibbons, followed by ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’, and ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ which was really enlivened by saxophonist Rob Hughes, before the stage emptied out and we were allowed an intermission to sort out our heads and come down off our high for a breather.
But before long, the lights went down again and we heard the wonderfully thrilling ‘China Dance’, a great way to start the second half. It was followed up by ‘Conditioning’ and it was obvious that this album was going to go down as well as DIA. Often Howard would sing into his mic with his eyes closed in pleasure, almost as if he was being transported back to the ’80s. He truly was fully enjoying this trip down memory lane and we were all too happy to walk it with him.
Probably the coolest graphics for this second half belonged to ‘Equality’ where we saw the faces of two totally different cultured men eventually meld into one. Quite fitting for the song’s intentions.
As mentioned earlier, both albums had a number of hits that would expectedly bring great singalongs but when ‘Hide And Seek’ was performed amidst a soft luminous blue glow, the voices joined in and what ensued was probably the most tender yet goose bumping evoked moment when, not even prompted, we took over the song, strongest in the sentimental chorus.
Possibly the funniest moment was when Howard had to revise a few of the lyrics of title track ‘Human’s Lib’ and laughingly apologize for the “go to bed with a hundred woman or men” part. It just showed his relaxed, humorous side that was prevalent through out the evening. He was quite comfortable in all, especially since, unlike the ’80s, he obviously had more reliable equipment this time around!
The show came to a glorious end when, announcing he only had one song left it finished how HoJo’s career started. ‘New Song’ saw him out front and center, Yamaha strapped over his shoulder and joyfully playing with the youthfulness never really gone or forgotten. I doubt there was a single person not dancing and clapping in unison to the infectious tune! But too short for our tastes, it was quickly over and the band gathered into one for the farewell bow. But before they could take it, Howard was presented with a massive bouquet of flowers, his face glowing with joy. It was the perfect ending to a night that had had so much anticipation, preparation, and energy… ..or was it?
We weren’t ready to let things end but seeing as how there were no more stones left unturned in terms of music, were we going to get an encore? If we all had our ways we were and the claps, cheers and poundings continued until a pleasantly surprised and moved Howard came out to enlighten us with an acoustic version of ‘New Song’, marked only with him and his Yamaha. Brilliant!
And then it truly was over but for someone who’s first concert ever was Howard Jones but during his third album, this was a moment to be remembered as I’m sure anyone in that crowd would agree
Text and photos by Lori Tarchala
23rd November 2010