© Mik Scarlet. First published in Best For Music magazine vol.2 April 2001
Now I know I’m getting old. Soft Cell playing live! One of THE bands of my teenage years, back together! Yippee.
So with full make up on I drive, with “Non-Stop Erotica Cabaret” pumping out of my little blue sports car, to Ocean, Hackney’s new music venue. Being a blaggy bastard it’s the opening night. Invite only and free drink all night… yes I drove… duh. I sit through speeches by Hackney council types, all patting each other on the back (well it’s not often they can do that, so I’ll let them off) and then it’s the opening night fireworks… lovely. At last all the hoopla is over and we are allowed into the arena. I find myself rushing to the front, like a mad teenage fan. It’s all coming back to me…. “Marc, we love you!”
Before David and Marc it’s Add N to X. Now this reinforces the felling of decrepitude. I await one of the godfathers of electronic dance music who have continued the trick of booking something very leftfield as support. Soft Cell, a band who introduced dance beats to the futurist/nu-wave of the early eighties and gave us New Romantics a diva, lead the way in the heady days when men wore more make up than girls. Add N to X are retro, big time. Their music really appeals to an old keyboard head like me, but live they want to be Kraftwerk. Standing behind banks of keyboards is so much more impressive if they are actually plugged. Of course, know Add N to X’s sense of humour their whole stage act is a piss take of the million big beat/electronica bands that fill their stages with synth that make an old collector like myself weep with envy but who hide the DAT tape player big time. I hope it was a joke, because if it wasn’t Add N to X are a studio band that should stay there. Bloody good studio band mind… I am getting old aren’t I?
Then it was time. The music started, the lighting and smoke kicked in and out of the smoke stepped…. MARC!!!! In a full-length leather coat, with diamante studded Vive La Rock t-shirt, oh so eighties belt, black jeans and bleached hair he looked like very much the part. Dave Ball took his place behind his keyboards and it was Memorabilia time. I know I was taken back to my sixteenth year, forming my first band with Marc Almond a-like Richard Hedges, all dressed in black, eye liners and pan stick, singing songs about being prostitutes (as if we knew). I had forgotten what a fantastic showman Marc almond is. Even in this venue filled with Hackney socialites, music industry types and sad journos like me, he still managed to captivate the audience. Both flirting and teasing us, I found myself turning back into the fan I was way back when. They belted out the hits, relying heavily on “Non Stop Erotic Cabaret” and the crowd sang along. Then came the “this is a new song, we might even get to release it if we can get a deal” comment that always fills a fan with fear… new songs… will they be as good? Yes they will! The two new tracks mix the old Soft Cell sound with fours to floor of today’s dance floor but not in a remix way. They have created Soft cell for now. Heart searching lyrics and Dave’s keyboards mastery. Someone better give them a deal, they’re fools of they don’t. Then it’s back to more classics. I find myself singing along, louder and louder. I’m sure towards the end I caught Marc’s eye, as he started singing to me. I filled with childish fan like glee… then it occurred to me… I’M STRAIGHT!!! Yes, let’s face it Soft Cell still have the old magic. They were ground breaking way back when and they still are. They still write classic songs that get right into the heart and that love the sleazy side of life and Marc can still make you wonder about yourself… no wonder my Dad hated him so!
It just makes me feel sad for the kids of today, what do they have for pop stars? Hear Say!