ERASURE at OGDEN THEATRE | 09/27/11
Like two ethereal beings dropped from the glittery synthpop heavens, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell's slim and nimble figures made larger-than-life-appearances last night at the Ogden Theatre. Legions of fans stood in polite awe as Bell sashayed his way through Erasure's greatest hits and more, Clarke standing a watchful guard while he created the tracks for his musical partner to stand on.
Flanked by two beautiful and statuesque back-up singers donning black, floor-length flowing pants, red shimmering corsets and delicate mohawks made of plumage, the four humans looked small in comparison to the elaborate get-up the stage itself wore. Crammed front and center were two angled pillars of faux steel, a multi-level set of round platforms and several fog-breathing gargoyles. One of the gargoyles housed Clarke's synth station, from where he conducted silently and with a fragile smile.
Bell was well aware of his role being the center attraction, appearing first in a gladiator helmet and sequined blazer and opening with "Sono Luminus." Light reflected off of the lead singer's jacket, giving him the illusion of a pink speckled beard as his operatic voice filled the venue. The shining overcoat was then removed to reveal a corset-vest and, as the first few notes of "Always" began to trickle out, the audience went wild.
"When I Start to (Break It All Down)" was the first of a few songs from it's latest album that Erasure brought to life, blending well with old favorites for a crowd seemed more than pleased regardless. With his trademark kicks and shuffles, Bell danced and danced and danced, grinning with a deviant sweetness through songs like "Drama!," "Ship of Fools" and "Chains of Love" while he winked and scowled with each verse's movement.
Clarke was called down from his synth pedestal to cut Bell out of his corset, and the lead singer changed once again, this time into a rhinestone Sex Pistols muscle t-shirt and aviators. "Breathe" played out in perfect time before Clarke once again descended from his podium to play guitar alongside his bandmate.
Though perhaps not intentional, there was humor in all of Bell's imaginary hair-flips, toe-taps and drag queen-without-the-make-up quivering lip snarls -- and the back-up singers were on to it all. So much so that at times, it was hard to to stare directly at the women, not just because they looked and sounded gorgeous, but because they too were smiling at Bell's inherent silliness.
"Chains of Love" started out on an awkward foot, Bell coming in a little off-time from the beat, but he swung right back and the rest went off without a hitch. "Sometimes" let Bell's voice echo though the cavernous venue and Clarke again picked up the guitar, his tiny frame swaying back and forth to the beat. "Respect" closed out the set, turning the Ogden into a massive and gleeful singalong.
Shortly after the lights went out, Erasure returned for an encore of "Oh L'amour," the stage's previously grey background now becoming a bright kaleidoscope of colors. "Stop!" sent the duo out with the perfect bang, a sea of peachy hands throwing up "stop" motions to the song's addictive chorus. And with that, a pretty close to perfect evening was over.
Opener Frankmusik was hardly worth a mention. The singer's recycled samples -- like Steve Winwood's "Valerie" and Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" -- came off lazy and uninspired. Tracks like "Better Off As Two" and "Do It In The AM" sounded like they were manufactured specifically for Forever 21 and H&M in-store soundtracks, and live was no different.
Dressed in I Dream of MC Hammer-inspired white spandex, Colette Carr came out to join Frankmusik for the duo's collaboration, "No I.D." It felt like a low-quality Disney production, complete with stagey smiles, too much make-up and not enough originality. The highlight was Frankmusik's live drummer -- who, well, played drums live.
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Personal Bias: I am secretly a gay man on the inside. Seeing Erasure is like going to the church of gay and getting spiritualized. I cried last time I saw them at Red Rocks when they played "Love to Hate You," but I kept it together at this show. Random Detail: Though I had read in previous interviews that due to some health issues, Andy Bell didn't dance very much on stage anymore, he kept us more than entertained with all of his glorious and fancy moves. By the Way: Bell's on-stage banter was quirky and on-point -- early on in the night Bell said, "What a perfect day. The third day of fall, and I can smell the grass. You're pretty laid back here. I think we can all safely say we're in the Mile High Club."