Erasure's Violet Flame Tour
Fillmore Miami Beach
Friday, September 12, 2014
Much respect to Erasure for this past Friday night. The British duo of singer-songwriter Andy Bell and songwriter-keyboardist Vince Clarke know that their bread and butter lies in the early part of their career, and they are not ashamed. Even though it's called the Violet Flame Tour, after the duo's new album, much of the evening's music covered material from the mid '80s to early '90s. And the near-capacity Fillmore Miami Beach ate it up like synth pop had never gone out of fashion.
Nina, a pretty young lady from Germany, warmed up the crowd as a youthful torchbearer of electronic pop. She was accompanied by Laura Fares who played electronic drums and cued up samples on a laptop.
Nina sang silky and sincere against mostly pulsing melodies that hardly shifted. Unfortunately, almost every song had a moment of mic feedback, and the density of the churning electronics sounded low and muddled. Though there was polite applause and cheers, the biggest rise she got from the crowd was when she asked, "Who's excited to see Erasure?"
Though Nina made a genuine attempt to capture the basics of synth-pop while keeping it contemporary with a dark edge, most everyone was ready to go back 20 or so years for the now legendary Erasure.
In fact, the crowd seemed more excited about the '80s pop hits, from Paula Abdul to Spandau Ballet, that played between Nina's brief set and the appearance of Erasure. By the time "Don't You (Forget About Me)" came on, the crowd was singing along so loud, they drowned out the music coming from the sound system.
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A couple of dusty hits later and the lights were dimmed at 9:30 p.m. on the dot, and the familiar ricocheting dings of electronics of "Oh L'Amour" started up, triggered by Clarke, who was mostly illuminated by his Mac Book.
Two black women with big hair in black tops and silver pants strutted out cooing the backing vocals. Then they were joined by Bell in a glittery top hat of silver sequins, sunglasses and black, sequined tails. His voice sounded as soulful as ever, still doing justice to a song almost 30 years old. He twirled on stage in bliss and seemingly geared up for a lengthy tour singing mostly staples from the duo's repertoire.
Clarke, in a tiny black hat and gray suit, as usual stayed mostly still throughout the show. He hardly nodded his head as he worked mostly a laptop and tiny keyboard.
Most of the show came from Bell and a network of spotlights. There were a few costume changes by Bell during the show, but nothing more flamboyant than glitter on his outfits. There was no pretense as they churned out hit after hit from their earlier albums, sprinkled with a few new songs from an album not due out until a couple of weeks from now.
There's also no pretense of how they make their music: with computers. Illustrating just how much smaller and powerful computers have gotten, Clarke mostly relied on his laptop for the familiar pulses, beats, and twinkling melodies that compose Erasure's songs.
Maybe he played that tiny keyboard some, but, if you were not right up front, in the pit, you could hardly make out his movements. The only time you could really tell he was playing something live was when he pulled out a black acoustic guitar for a few songs, but even then he only strummed it a bit for a layer of rhythm that was still drowned out by the laptop.
Bell was in prime form, shaking hands with the front of the crowd and chatting it up between songs, even doing some Spanglish. "Good evening, my Miami babies, como esta?" he said after "Oh L'Amour" and before Clarke triggered the music of "Star."
It wasn't all about the familiar. Clarke smartly deconstructed the opening of several well-known Erasure tunes to kick them off, which had the crowd guessing until Bell started singing. There were only a few of new songs: "Reason," the new single "Elevation," which was released in July, and "Sacred," a song Bell introduced as "my favorite from the new album."
The new music was received with polite interest, and really it's nothing that sounded out of place in the band's catalog. But it was the familiarity of the hits, played by the guys who wrote them, that was the main draw of this show.
So appropriately, the night ended with such beloved songs as "Blue Savannah," "Love to Hate You" and "Victim of Love," before a two-song encore composed of classics "Always" and "Sometimes."
The statement for the opening night of this tour was simple: Erasure's Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are geared up and ready to have fun diving into the basics of synth-pop with the wizened humor of the legends that they are.
-"Breath of Life"
-"You Surround Me"
-"I Lose Myself"
-"A Little Respect"
-"Ship of Fools"
-"Love to Hate You"
-"Victim of Love"
-"Chains of Love"
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