Reviews

Review: Trevor Horn and band in London

SDE reviews last night’s show at the Southbank • Watch video of Trevor performing Frankie’s ‘Relax’ with Ryan Molloy

Legendary producer Trevor Horn took to the stage last night at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to perform a two-hour long set that included many classics from his impressive back catalogue – songs he has written and/or produced. It was also an opportunity for Horn to debut tracks from the forthcoming album Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties, which is due for release early next year.

The 19-piece band (which featured an eight-piece string section) included drummer Steve Ferrone, Lol Creme and Phil Palmer on guitar and a succession of guest vocalists such as Ryan Molloy (who first stood in for Holly Johnson at the Frankie Goes To Hollywood almost-reunion at Wembley in 2004), X-Factor winner Matt Cardle and occasionally Trevor Horn himself.

There was no messing as the show kicked off with a ferocious ‘Two Tribes’ followed by an impeccable ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. The first song performed that features on Reimagines The Eighties was Trevor’s rearrangement of Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Dancing In The Dark’. He has turned the hit single into a ballad and it works wonderfully. One of the backing singers handled vocal duties on Friday evening, although Gabrielle Aplin sings it on the album and one of the slight disappointments of the evening were how few stars from the forthcoming release turned up to replicate their contributions in the live setting (Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, Matt Cardle and harmonica player/singer Jimmie Wood being the exceptions).

While I’m not a fan of X-Factor and it’s easy to be sniffy about these things, Cardle was excellent all evening and his standout track was a brilliant ‘The Power Of Love’ (Frankie Goes To Hollywood). He’s become something of a ‘go to’ vocalist for Horn in recent years in terms of live performance and you have to say good luck to him.

With his friend and fellow musician Lol Creme there, Trevor Horn was bound to put some 10cc in the mix and indeed they delivered ‘Rubber Bullets’ and ‘I’m Not In Love’. The former was the one track I felt out of place in the setlist. Yes, it was a number one in Britain back in the day, but for me the chugging rocker doesn’t exhibit any of the production attention-to-detail that Horn is known for, whereas of course ‘I’m Not In Love’ clearly does. After a false start (once Creme got his keyboard working) ‘I’m Not In Love’ sounded about as good as it’s ever likely to, in a live setting, although Godley and Creme’s ‘Cry’ (a song Trevor co-produced) was equally stunning (with Ryan Molloy again taking care of vocal duties).

Reimagines The Eighties also includes the title track of Dire Straits‘ 1985 smash Brothers in Arms. Jim Kerr sings and Simple Minds play on that track on the album, although it was performed last night with neither. Trevor did his best on vocals, but it was a rare ‘miss’, as was Slave To The Rhythm which is clearly a complex track to perform live and has a very narrow ‘sweet spot’. Horn even admitted that they didn’t want to perform it as it appears on Reimagines The Eighties since it didn’t really have enough “rhythm” for the live environment. This resulted in a hybrid arrangement which rather missed the mark.

Wryly commenting prior to playing it, that he would stay away from Manchester for a while in case he got ‘lynched’, Trevor and band performed a surprisingly good taken on New Order‘s ‘Blue Monday’. Steve Ferrone was immense on drums and this song provided the one comedy moment of the evening as a Jimmie Wood strode on after the extended intro and proceeded to miss his cue and sing off-key for a line or two. There was something about his demeanour that suggested he may have been enjoying some backstage refreshments, but to be fair he quickly got to grips with things and was very good in the end, especially with his trademark harmonica work.

Horn revealed on stage that his idea for a-ha‘s ‘Take On Me’ for Reimagines The Eighties was to do it with Il Divo. They weren’t interested, but he’s kept that style of presentation and Trevor himself sings this one, in a semi-operatic style. He actually did a grand job last night with (I think) Molloy helping and Cardle and the two backing singers providing some harmonies. It was a complex arrangement, with a bass-less Horn clearly working very hard on his vocal delivery. “Thank god that’s over” he said afterwards.

Trevor was congenial host throughout and the 69-year old looked great, having shed a few pounds over the last few years. There was plenty of self-deprecating humour and his warm relationship with Lol Creme resulted in much joshing and ribbing between the pair.

The evening ended with a fine version of Frankie’s ‘Relax’ with Ryan Molloy. There was a one-song encore of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’, although the band didn’t bother going off stage coming back on (“there’s just too many of us,” Horn noted).

It’s hard to imagine any fan of pop music, particularly 80s pop, not enjoying last night’s show. Horn has the know how to make very complex songs work in a live environment, songs that bands often wouldn’t – or couldn’t – play live at the time (‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ and ‘Cry’ being two such examples). The show also served to stimulate my interest in the Reimagines The Eighties album which I was slightly on the fence about the other day when it was first announced, but now have more enthusiasm for. You can read more about that album here.

Trevor Horn and band performed live at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank on 2 November 2018.

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The set list:

  1. Two Tribes
    (Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover)
  2. Video Killed the Radio Star
    (Buggles song)
  3. Dancing in the Dark
    (Bruce Springsteen cover)
  4. It’s Different for Girls
    (Joe Jackson cover)
  5. Ashes to Ashes
    (David Bowie cover)
  6. Rubber Bullets
    (10cc cover)
  7. All the Things She Said
    (t.A.T.u. cover)
  8. Slave to the Rhythm
    (Grace Jones cover)
  9. The Power of Love
    (Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover)
  10. Living in the Plastic Age
    (Buggles song)
  11. What’s Love Got to Do with It
    (Tina Turner cover)
  12. Take On Me
    (a‐ha cover)
  13. Cry
    (Godley & Creme cover)
  14. Blue Monday
    (New Order cover)
  15. Brothers in Arms
    (Dire Straits cover)
  16. Girls on Film
    (Duran Duran cover)
  17. I’m Not in Love
    (10cc cover)
  18. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
    (Tears for Fears cover)
  19. Owner of a Lonely Heart
    (Yes song)
  20. Relax
    (Frankie Goes to Hollywood cover)
  21. Money For Nothing
    (Dire Straits cover)

21 responses to Review: Trevor Horn and band in London

  1. David Stanley says:

    Planned a last-minute trip from NY to London and took a chance on this, with only a few seats to spare, not sure what the evening would be, so very happy when it turned out to be a great night of Trevor Horn’s greatest hits (sans ABC) and others’ 80s hits, rethought and beefed up in many cases. Excellent players and singers. “Power of Love”, “I’m Not In Love”, and “Two Tribes” were highlights for me. Not sure if it was the venue acoustics or sound mix but the vocals sounded a bit muffled throughout; had much better vocal clarity at the John Grant concert (02 Academy Brixton) I’d attended a few days before. Spotted you Paul (at the Trevor Horn concert) and debated whether to say hi; I did but regretted it because came off as a stalker I think. But I did want and still do want to genuinely express my love of your work on this website and your terrific writing and interviewing skills. Thanks, Paul!

  2. Brad Breault says:

    I’m jealous as a music fan living in the US where a show like this rarely or would rarely happen. Glad to hear it was filmed, Paul please give an update on when it comes out on home video (fingers crossed region free when it does!). Thanks as always as I’m now more interested in this album release as well.

  3. Heraldo says:

    Used to play 5-a-side with Ryan Molloy for about 10-12 years from the mid 90’s. Really lovely bloke bar being a Newcastle fan ;-)

  4. adam shaw says:

    I saw him at Shepherds Bush a few years back ( think you were there as well Paul ) and it was a great little gig . I nearly got tickets for this but once I saw the album details I backed off . Should’ve gone by the sounds of it .

  5. Wouter Desmet says:

    To me, it’s a shame Two Tribes is not on the album. I saw an earlier performance of the track by Trevor Horn live on YouTube, and that sounded amazing.
    As for Simple Minds: very much looking forward to Charlie Burchill’s guitar work and Mick MacNeil’s keyboards on Brothers in Arms. It’s the 1st time since 1989 MacNeil works together with Kerr & Burchill.
    The Minds would have had a hard time turning up with Horn in London by the way as they are doing their 1st big North American tour in decades right now.
    Looking forward to the Trevor Horn album !W

    • Neil says:

      You can find a version of Two Tribes on the Producers album Made In Basing Street.

      • Neil Kelly says:

        Thought you was wrong there. After much research i see it’s a hidden track on the deluxe! I have it as a free download from 2012 don’t think i’ve ever played it before. Currently playing ‘Your life’ (Extended) and it’s pretty good. When that finishes i’m straight off to ‘Two tribes’!

  6. MaryB says:

    Sat a bit behind whoever filmed that; it was a superb gig. Horn said just before Brothers in Arms that he couldn’t hear himself on his monitors; I wondered if that didn’t get fixed and was why his vocal wasn’t quite there for that

  7. LeBaron says:

    Which song did Steve Hogarth sing, please?

  8. BJ says:

    Hearing Lol creme sing Rubber Bullet’s was one of the highlight’s of the evening. Fern was immense and the guitar solo…well…
    Must admit I thought Trevor Horn vocally was excellent, Radio Star, Living In The Plastic Age and Lonely Heart were very well handled.

  9. Liam Donnelly says:

    Attended the concert last night. Excellent. Loved the arrangements of so many classic songs from the era. Great performances from the entire group. Trevor made it such a warm show with his intros to each song and banter with Lol Creme. Too many stand out songs to list, but will definitely be checking out the album.

  10. bob says:

    That was a great review Paul.
    I am really enjoying all of the extra features that you have added to the site over the past couple of years. Your Bowie book interview was fantastic, you always ask the questions that a fan would ask given the chance.

  11. Mark Rutherford says:

    Would you know if the evening was filmed Paul?

  12. Since much of this band was just a part of the Knopfler-less Dire Straits Live project here in the USA – I’m happy to hear the group continuing with this next idea. SM’s take excites me, certianly Charlie Burchill can do wonders on the guitar line of BROTHERS IN ARMS, on Jim Kerrs vocals are prime for that song. Can’t wait.

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