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Spandau Ballet: Verdict on the new frontman, Ross William Wild

SDE reports on the first gig with the new frontman

Spandau Ballet unveiled their new singer, Ross William Wild, last night with a sweaty, intimate 70 minute hit-packed set at London’s Subterania.

As the acoustic guitar intro of opener Through The Barricades turned into full band bombast, it was immediately apparent that the singer and actor, with his experience of the West End stage (he starred as Elvis Presley alongside Spandau bassist Martin Kemp in The Million Dollar Quartet in 2016), had the composure to handle what must have been an intimidating situation. It was also clear that no one would be going home claiming ‘he can’t sing’, either.

But Hadley’s shoes are big ones to fill and as the evening progressed and they worked through the hits (2009’s Once More was the only track likely to challenge the Spandau knowledge of the 600-capacity crowd) I found myself questioning what my own expectations were. Did I want Ross William Wild to ‘own’ these songs and stamp his own individuality on them or did I want to close my eyes and for it to sound like Hadley was up there singing?

The Spandau rookie was probably at his best with the pulsing new romantic energy of early songs like Chant No. 1 (I Can’t Keep This Pressure On) and To Cut A Long Story Short but with but the slower mid-paced numbers it was sometimes more of a challenge, with Hadley’s DNA seemingly hardwired into every vocal mannerism and inflection. The new frontman is in a Catch 22 situation, in many ways, because to not stay true to these Hadleyisms seems (at least at first) odd – as if he isn’t singing the song ‘properly’ – but of course if you mimic every warble, some will argue that it is nothing more than premium-rate karaoke.

Ironically, perhaps the most incongruous aspect was nothing to do with the singing, it was seeing this buffed 30-year old fronting a band whose members are all old enough to be his dad. There was a youthful puppy-dog energy to Wild which was at odds with the lived in bodies of the other musicians (although to be fair, no one has let themselves go). From certain angles, it appeared as if  Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan, circa 1984, had teleported into Spandau of 2018.

Nevertheless, the rest of the band have enough history, character and fortitude to make the evening – and, they hope, their future – work. It wasn’t a triumph or a disaster, but was a lot of fun. How much that had to do with the intimate setting (reminiscent of their earliest days playing The Blitz Club) and the general buzz around the nature of the event, remains to be seen and so, for now, SDE will return an open verdict. But as fans held phones aloft to the encore of Gold, it was hard to deny that, without Tony Hadley, they did still sound like Spandau Ballet. So in that respect, job done.


You have the opportunity to Judge Ross William Wild for yourself as the band have announced they will play a special one-off UK show at London’s Eventim Apollo on 29 October 2018. Tickets are on sale here from 9am this morning.

Setlist 

Through The Barricades
Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)
Communication
Only When You Leave
Highly Strung
Once More
I’ll Fly For You
Round & Round
Lifeline
True
————————————————
To Cut A Long Story Short
Gold

37 responses to Spandau Ballet: Verdict on the new frontman, Ross William Wild

    • Top Cat says:

      Funnily enough, on a completely different site, an ad for a professional band looking for a strong front person, demands: “No Broadway vibrato.” Couldn’t help but think of Mr. William Wild.

  1. Pingback:Out This Week / on 15 June 2018 | superdeluxeedition

  2. Charlie Waffles says:

    Yuk. Keep that new guy on your side of the pond.

    Can I send the replacement singers to audition for Spandau Ballet? (Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, etc). You can keep them over there, too.

  3. It’s a little annoying reading all the comments pointing out that “there’s no new music”, when they obviously haven’t kept up to date. Gary Kemp stated months ago that he had written all the new songs, and that Tony didn’t want to do the album. It’s also been stated that they’ll record a brand new album with Ross William Wild. Releasing new music at this point would’ve been too much to handle. First, they had to convince the fans that he’s a worthy replacement. That’s a lot for some fans to digest. I became a fan in the early 80s, so I understand the nostalgia aspect to it all, but to be completely honest, I soon became excited at the prospect of this new chapter, and I think he did very well, especially for his first live performance. I like Ross William Wild. I like his enthusiasm. To be honest, Tony looked overweight and somewhat unhealthy compared to the other members. I don’t think his heart was ever really in it (not 100 %, anyway), and the other guys want to be doing this for as long as they can. I wish them good luck!

  4. Andreas says:

    I don’t get why all these bands are trying to cash in on a brand name, while important key members are no longer there… Foreigner, Journey, Queen, apparently Fleetwood Mac…

    And what I like even worse, is if – like in the case of Foreigner – no new music is being delivered, while the old hits are rerecorded in a million different forms.

    And what is Spandau Ballet without Tony Hadley? Everyone connects that band with his distinctive voice. It’s ridiculous really.

    If they chose another band name, they would be afraid that it would sell even less. Maybe that would unfortunately be the case. The Buckingham/McVie album would probably have sold even better, had they called it Fleetwood Mac. And that album contains two key singers.

    But who will be interested in this new Spandau Ballet line up?

    • De Jesus says:

      The real question is what is comprises the soul of a band? Sometimes it’s the founding core, sometimes the vocalist – or both. As I replied earlier, ABC minus Martin Fry – impossible. Zep minus Plant – NO. But, apparently many bands flourish after a new singer (Maiden, Genesis, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac), but it must be in their early years, not with such period, age and culture contrast. This is what works against these new cats: Wild, Lambert… At least, Journey’s new guy (in his 50’s) is only about 10 years from the band’s founding core age.

    • richard says:

      actually Foreigner put out a lot of new music with the new lead & it is fantastic

  5. Zoe says:

    I wish them well, but his voice for me is too theatrical. Tony Hadley has such a unique recognisable voice.. it’s true what people are saying, feels like a tribute act now..
    For me Tony H made Spandau Ballet.
    They were the first concert I went to at the age of 9…. loved them. Still love their music but it would not be the same for me live now.

    • De Jesus says:

      Wasn’t there, but did catch the recent YouTube upload of ‘Barricades’ of that night, and I have to concur — too much ‘West End/Broadway’ for me, too. Not enough ‘East End’ soul & gravel.

  6. johninely says:

    Wasn’t there…so didn’t see it.

    My strategy would have been to wait until they had new material that had been recorded and then the new guy could have started with a new single and introduced his sound, segue into the hits, and end with something new. Encore could be the same as they did.

    Doesn’t seem fair to have the poor guy do only songs that were originated by a singer that has such a distinctive voice and style of phrasing.

  7. MarkW says:

    I was there also and agree with Paul’s open verdict. It was fun to see the band in a small venue and Steve Norman was great, but I wondered whether they should have found a singer a couple of degrees further removed from Tony Hadley’s sound.

    Whilst I wasn’t expecting the second side of Diamond, it was the shortest set I’ve ever seen, apart from a Godfathers student union gig in 1986 – “you’ve had your 50 pence worth” !

  8. Kauwgompie says:

    I do agree with the age difference point. Aside from missing Tony Hadley, it’s weird to see your favorite 80’s band with a singer that is 25 years or so younger. It makes it harder to not see this as a tribute band.
    In the end it doesn’t really matter what we think. It’s unlikely they will bring out new material so from a sales perspective it doesn’t matter. From a tour perspective it doesn’t matter either. They play for 600 people. There will always be 600 people who want to see Spandau Ballet in England, even if it is without Tony Hadley. So as far as any future that Spandau ballet has, it is live shows. The only question is will they be big or small live shows. Probably small. Would you wanna see Duran Duran without Simon Le Bon? I treasure the 80’s and even 90’s Spandau Ballet moments with Tony Hadley and I’m not particularly keen on seeing or hearing them without Tony Hadley.

  9. RJS says:

    12 tracks, 70 minutes? A bit short. They could’ve gone down the tribute Hadley lookalike / soundalike avenue but that woukd only make them a laughing stock I suppose. In a live situation, the creative force in the band – Gary Kemp – would be a lesser loss than Hadley. I saw The Stranglers live post Hugh Cornwall. The replacement singer was very good and very competent but it just didn’t feel like I was watching The Stanglers.

  10. Mark T. says:

    I had kept up some sense of hope, that is until watching the “Barricades” video. While Wild’s voice isn’t bad, the theatrical/staged nature of his singing is a real turn off. It’s like a bad Broadway actor trying to win over the audience by over-singing. Not what I was hoping for…

    • De Jesus says:

      Unfortunately, that’s the ‘rub’ with musical theatre cats to my ear, anyway. No street credibility; it just ain’t organic enough, making it via clubs and touring with a band. There’s also the other irritation, as with Lambert fronting Queen – too much overdoing antics and glam. Hell, even Freddie in his day — with all his glamour — was more rock-n-roll driven than Las Vegas glitter.

  11. Simonf says:

    Interview with Sir Tone of Hadley in today’s Torygraph rag if anyone is interested

  12. jp sanders says:

    Paul. You hit the nail right on the head – the Catch 22 is for both the group and fans. As a mild Spandau fan I cannot come up with my own answer for this case. I just know that one of the best live acts I saw was INXS in their pomp, yet years later I saw the Huthence-less incarnation and enjoyed it immensely. But if I am totally honest I enjoyed it more as a tribute act performing great songs than an original band.

  13. Ed Jones says:

    Never mind Spandau, has anyone seen The The on their current “Comeback Special” tour? Now THAT is worth talking about!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Yes, saw them on Tuesday at the Royal Albert Hall. Review coming…

    • Tom of FIN says:

      Spot on, Ed. I have. Matt Johnson’s voice was in excellent form in Stockholm on last Saturday and band sounded terrific.

      All the first comeback leg gigs were sold out well beforehand. No wonder – the first tour for 18 years and only one halftime concert a few years later in Bowie’s Meltdown!

      Strong buy recommendation here for his autumn concerts unless in Ireland or Portugal this summer.

  14. Chris Squires says:

    Leaving aside Spandau for the moment it makes me realize what a dangerous path it is for any ageing pop / rock act.
    Look at the money Abba could have made to reform at any point in the last 25 years. Literally billions, and yet, to their eternal credit, they kept on walking.
    Not every fading star will have the security than the Abba group have though. Particularly if you do not have song-writing credits on your legacy.
    I hope it works for both Tony and the remainder of Spandau. The voice, the writer and then the rest of the band. As ever though, legacy is at stake. As it is for everybody who dares go in front of the attentionally challenged general public. The internet world is a harsh place for taking returning steps.

  15. Peter Muscutt says:

    I guess its a dilemma for bands whose front-men/women pass away, and the point Paul makes – do we want to hear the band “as they were” or are we happy to have fresh blood introduced, with the caveat that it won’t be “quite the same”?

    The one thing I’d add is, is a vocalist passing away any more or less important than when a well-known guitarist/drummer/bassist dies? Yes they are the ones singing, but a band can also be defined by their guitar sound, bass expertise, drumming technique. You could argue the same with The Who when Keith Moon and John Entwistle died, could anyone replace them? No, but to be fair they’ve kept going (whether they should have done or not is another debate!). Will they finish when Townshend or Daltrey eventually pass on? Highly likely. Personally I think it’s more important when a main songwriter dies or moves on, as that gives a band much of their feel or ethos…

    • O(+> Peter B says:

      Tony Hadley is still alive, isn’t he?…

    • De Jesus says:

      You have to ask yourself, what’s the soul of the group or band? That’s what can’t be replaced. Sometimes it’s the voice, sometimes band mates. Journey w/out Perry? Well yes – the heart is still with founder Neal Schon. AC/DC w/out Brian Johnson? Yes – the Young brothers are/were the blood. ABC w/out Martin Fry? NO. Duran Duran w/out Le Bon? NO. Zeppelin sans Plant. NO. Spandau Ballet w/out Tony? Hmm…

  16. Darren says:

    I keep asking myself Why? I understand the 2009 arena tour with them altogether and the nostalgia that bought back to the 40+ amongst us but if they are doing this for diminishing returns (one night at Hammersmith Apollo vs Sell our nights across various arenas) It’s just a glorified karaoke for me. Likethe shambles that Queen are now. It’s best to just close the book especially when such charismatic front men are no longer around\available, quite sad really…

    • De Jesus says:

      Hear! Hear! But, there still are charismatic front-men of the right age bracket who would have fit-in nicely; virtually any 80’s era singer who could use the work: Living in a Box’s Richard Darbyshire (what a voice!), Rick Astley (still working), Ice House’s Iva Davies, Blow Monkeys’ Dr. Robert… But, ultimately, it seems to be about the ‘fountain of youth’ for the band. Unfortunately, it only goes to further contrast the age difference than bridge it.

  17. Hans Jörg says:

    Who? Did he sing in a band that one should know? Never heard of him before.

    • Michael D says:

      He’s from a UK musical theatre background, literally worked his way up from being understudy to being principal lead character, hence Martin Kemp noticing him whilst working the same stage production. The reason why you haven’t heard of him is he isn’t a pop/rock singer.

      Fantastic article BTW.

      There’s a youtube clip up there of Through The Barricades now :

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNvZmtJRTYo

      Starting with that was brave and ultimately proves everything your article states. He screams of musical theatre, vibrato at every opportunity. It’s Tony’s signature song IMO, Spandau’s best song, forever shielded by True and Gold. They should have done 2 verses and kicked in to their early work.

      I’m with everyone else, for what purpose have they brought this guy in? Are they really expecting a third bite at the cherry? An established 80s/90s vocalist would have kept them touring with a bit more credibility.

      They cite old resentments rearing their head as their reason for the split. Most would actually think that’s money. I reckon it was more to do with the tour on the back of Soul Boys of the Western World. I’m guessing Tony doesn’t want to work that hard and therefore didn’t want to record a new album where Gary had already stated the songs were written (I’m getting a little hint of dictatorship here). It’s a shame, as there’s ‘the voice’ of Spandau Ballet going out there and releasing a new solo album and touring at his leisure at a level he’s comfortable with.

      Gary Kemp wants more musical recognition me thinks. Had he concentrated more with music he could have gone down a Richard Marx type path and written for others whilst maintaining an audience for releasing solo material. We could all be proven wrong but I think the ship has sailed away , literally, with Tony on it.

      • De Jesus says:

        You hit the nail on the head, Mike. The song-writing core and same band mates are still a driving force, but a more age-matched, seasoned voice of the period – famous or not – would have offered more street credibility to the band. And, all eyes wouldn’t be so much on the new guy’s biceps and age, but spread the limelight more evenly, finally achieving Gary his well-deserved spotlight.

  18. Auntie Sabrina says:

    Tony Hadley was on the Ken Bruce Show on BBC Radio 2 yesterday, and he sang Through The Barricades. I wish them all the best…

  19. Trash says:

    A well-written piece – particularly the point about being in a Catch 22 situation. I think the best thing would be for them to move on and write some new material which Wild can then ‘own’.

    As a Spandau fan (early days not so much the later material) I’ll be keeping an open ear and an open mind…

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