Review

Soft Cell

o2 Academy, Glasgow

****

 

The PR said that the synth pop pioneers would reunite for one last time at the o2 in London in 2018 - in their first UK show for 15 years.

It appears to be a big fib.

Because tonight  in another o2, this time in Glasgow, there was a big live return to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their seminal debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.

But before the retro goodies, and with 25 million sales, six UK Top 10 singles and a BRIT Award to their name, there was still another album to sell.

Because after people shed blood to get tickets to see the final hoorah in London three years ago, Marc Almond and Dave Ball were plotting a first album in two decades.

Happiness Not Included, and Almond nearly forgot its name tonight, is unleashed in February, next year.

What wasn't forgotten is that thumping black electro married to Almond's striking vocal balance between night and day, hope and despair, the intimate and the international. All of which reflected his all-black appearance, sometimes with dark sunglasses - at other times bright eyed and bushy tailed.

In a tale of two halves, the duo, who are now both comfortably in their 60s, teased with an exuberant take on their 80s chart hit Torch to open proceedings.

The biggest compliment you can pay to new songs like Bruises On My Illusions and Heart Like Chernobyl is that they sonically fit with their classics, no doubt helped by Ball's consistently psychedelic Korg wizardry.

HeraldScotland:

Almond's dark poetry steeped in melodrama is born from an unsettled childhood and leaving school at 17 with few qualifications.

But it was at art college that he developed his style of mixing experimental performance and cabaret pop with music and film studies.

Tonight that collage was brought even more into focus with wild and bizarre footage that accompanied chilling songs like the psychopathic and haunting Martin which concluded the first act.

Of course the audience, part masked, part not, part socially distanced, part not, were saving their feather boa fervour for the classics.

And not just the predictable explosion for Tainted Love.

The euphoric Sex Dwarf with its seedily uncomfortable "luring disco dollies to a life of vice" hook - which probably wouldn't be allowed now - revealed itself as a potential contender for first ever trance tune and got the biggest reception of the night.

Well almost.

That honour goes to Say Hello Wave Goodbye, the third single off the album, that limped to number 3 in the charts in 1982 and took the roof off. It confirmed that it might just be the greatest five-and-a-half minutes devoted to 'love em and leave em' there has been.

Almond's break up stance here is far more empowered, with all the devil-may-care theatre of 70s divas such as  Shirley Bassey or Dorothy Squires  and quite a contrast to our own modern day Lewis Capaldi who has made a career out of pathetic 'lost in love' despair. Both are, of course, entirely relevant.

Before their debut single, the kaleidoscopic Memorabilia finished act two and everyone went home, there was at last an admission.

Almond said: "Three years ago, we didn't think we would do this again, but here we are."