Emerging to the strains of Velvet Newton, Simon Le Bon and the band receive a rapturous welcome from the West Yorkshire crowd, assembled in Halifax’s impressive Piece Hall. They fly into a blistering start, the crowd immediately singing in unison to Wild Boys. Le Bon struts across the stage, white suit shining in the spotlight, indulging himself in the adoration of the audience.
Never known for a lack of confidence, Le Bon’s presence is still captivating. He’s not lost that star quality that helped launch the band into the new wave stratosphere. The performance belies his 63 years, as he commands the Piece Hall with the energy of his 1980s self. There are fans new and old, judging by the collection of tour t-shirts on show, in thrall to the band that keeps refining its craft, some 44 years after its inception in Birmingham in 1978.
The sound in the Piece Hall is excellent, and the arrangements of these classic tracks shows that this is a band that can still deliver – there’s plenty of interaction between John Taylor on bass, and Dom Brown on guitar, Nick Rhodes statuesque at his keyboards, and Roger Taylor driving the performance forward throughout at the drums. Le Bon’s voice still holds up too. There’s a bit of support from 2 excellent backing vocalists, but the vocal is strong and the reverb-heavy production still captures that unique sound.
Notorious takes it to another level – “like a giant kettle without a lid on”, remarks Le Bon, referring to the open air piazza that makes the Piece Hall a unique venue – “and it’s already boiling!”. By this time, we’re only 5 numbers into a 2-hour set, 20 song set but he’s not wrong; it’s going off already, and there’s no sign of the pace dropping.
Come Undone, Give It All Up follow, and the crowd reaches new heights, literally howling in appreciation as the band bring Hungry Like The Wolf to a close.
There is a nice contrast though, as the band ask us to reflect on the plight of those in Ukraine. The song they’ve chosen at this point in the set is one that is about not giving up hope, or on what you believe in. It’s a passionate vocal and an impassioned singalong to Ordinary World, and it’s delivered with poignancy.
The set accelerates again with 1995’s White Lines. It takes the proverbial roof off the place, leaving Le Bon posturing like Jagger and catapulting us into a final race through the early 1980s – The Reflex, Careless Memories, Girls on Film (mashed up with a cover of Calvin Harris’ Acceptable in the 80s).
The customary finish of Save a Prayer and Rio bring the polished performance to a close. One fan I spoke to had seen the band in 1989, the early 2000s, and now again in these beautiful surroundings. A connoisseur for sure – and she felt they just keep getting better.
On the reaction of the crowd, it’s hard to disagree – never mind ‘dancing on the sand’. They were dancing in the streets of Halifax on the way home last night.
Words: Huw Williams
Photos: Cuffe & Taylor / The Piece Hall, Halifax / Huw Williams
The Wild Boys
All of You
View To A Kill
Union of the Snake
Give It All Up
Hungry Like the Wolf
Friends Of Mine
Hold Back the Rain
Girls on Film / Acceptable in the 80s
Save a Prayer