It’s about time I put the other shots of Thomas Dolby up. Sorry it’s been a while, but I’ve been back and forth a bit ever since. Several concerts and rapid changes of barometric pressure later and my ears, teeth and sinuses don’t what hit them, and it takes me almost a minute when I wake up to know where the hell I am. Anyway… Thomas did two shows in London: the first at the ICA to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, and the second at Islington’s Academy, to celebrate, I feel, or perhaps to substantiate his return to England.
He commented on the show last year at the Scala, his first since ’92, which seemed to have been a realisation moment for him that there were still a ‘hard core’ of fans in the UK and Europe that would traverse the flat earth to see him live. There was a lot of that atmosphere about the Academy gig in Islington to reinforce that earlier observation, and indeed many of the same fans.
He could not have had much doubt by the end of the concert that any release of new material would be very well received. It was also clear that while everyone enjoys the hits immensely, many of the more thoughtful tracks were the ones that had affected people deeply, with a quieter and more subtle communication passing between writer and listener. This seemed to please Dolby as much as it pleased me, and bodes well for such tracks on any forthcoming release. It must be a great feeling to know that there are people who will really listen to what you put into a song; what an encouragement to express something honest and worthwhile. There will always be 3 minute pop hits, but the audience for them is now far from pivotal, and there are so many equally populated and supportive genres. It’s a good scene.
The show itself felt assured, less on tenterhooks than the ICA, which makes sense, having been road tested. The lighting was better (which pleased me no end) if still a little primary – beginning : blue; songs about hot sauce : red; subaquatic themes : green. I would love to have seen more use made of projections – why not more than one screen? Why not use the stage and musicians as a backdrop? Mix in the images from Thomas’ headcam? Stacks of 50s TVs? Lots of scope for rich visuals there, and the music lends itself so well to dramatic and atmospheric technologies.
But I learned from my experience of the ‘primary’ burnout of the lighting at the first gig, so I was prepared this time with tricks up my sleeve. I hope some of the images bear this out. Most of all I’m looking forward to setting a couple of shots up in the near future. I have one or two ideas… we didn’t get a chance to shoot anything in the afternoon before the gig as the possibility came up for some old friends to play that night, and the afternoon was needed for rehearsal.
First up were Thomas’ first touring band members circa Flat Earth era, guitarist Kevin Armstrong and bassist Matthew Seligman. Personally great to finally meet Matthew to whom I’m musically linked by 2 degrees of separation (but that’s another story!).
Joyful bonus of the night was Lene Lovich, in full regalia. What can I say?! Clearly worth celebrating, as TD’s headgear testifies. A few old mates of mine were there too… great to see you all, guys, it completed what I can only describe as another magical evening, and I even made the last tube home.