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Trevor Horn – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewer: C L Delft

Before he became the defining producer of the 80s, Trevor Horn had served an apprenticeship as a performer, topping the charts in 1979 as part of The Buggles with Video Killed The Radio Star and going on from there to front a later incarnation of the progressive rock band Yes, before settling for a life mostly spent behind the glass wall.  Yet he still has the urge to perform, as witnessed by his recent album of eighties hits ‘reimagined’ and this current tour in support of it.

Fronting a huge band (one drummer, two percussionists, three guitarists, three backing vocalists and a string orchestra!), he takes the stage at Symphony Hall wielding his instrument of choice, the bass guitar, looking more or less as he did when he first appeared on our collective radar.  The hair may be grey, but the trademark glasses and diffident expression are still in place.  He is joined by another music industry veteran of even longer standing, Lol Creme who first hit the charts as part of the pre 10cc band Hotlegs.

Given Horn’s immense success as a producer and Creme’s hardly less lucrative career as songwriter, member of 10cc and, later, music video pioneer with musical partner Kevin Godley, this tour might seem like an exercise in indulgence: two fabulously wealthy musos giving their egos a late-middle-aged boost.  But it’s actually serious business.  The ‘reimagining’ is not a faddish gimmick but a valid attempt to give these well-known songs a different perspective, freeing them from their original, often anachronistic, arrangements.  Hence, Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough hit Dancing in the Dark become a sad (if truth be told, verging on the lachrymose) ballad, Yes’ Owner Of A Lonely Heart, fronted by Horn, becomes an orchestral tour de force and the opener, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes, complete with voice-overs, acquires an almost operatic force.

The concept is elastic enough to allow for a couple of forays into the seventies, and with Lol Creme on board, it seems only right to cover 10cc’s evergreen I’m Not in Love and Rubber Bullets. The former is sung by guest vocalist Matt Cardle, the latter by Steve Hogarth of Marillion, who strays a distance from his usual prog-rock territory to offer covers of Seal’s Kiss From A Rose, New Order’s Blue Monday and David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes.  Other songs, including Relax and Two Tribes are well sung by Matt Cardle.

The distinctive production style of the 1980s, with its gated drums, reverb and general absence of dynamics remains a contentious issue among music-lovers. Yet sceptics need not hesitate, as the ‘re-imagining’ gives some of these songs a depth and a resonance you might never have suspected they had.

Reviewed on 30 July 2019 and on tour  | Image: Contributed

Reviewer: C L Delft Before he became the defining producer of the 80s, Trevor Horn had served an apprenticeship as a performer, topping the charts in 1979 as part of The Buggles with Video Killed The Radio Star and going on from there to front a later incarnation of the progressive rock band Yes, before settling for a life mostly spent behind the glass wall.  Yet he still has the urge to perform, as witnessed by his recent album of eighties hits ‘reimagined’ and this current tour in support of it. Fronting a huge band (one drummer, two percussionists, three…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.