Live Review: If You Haven’t Seen ABC Live, Then You Must

Published on October 5th, 2014

_MG_9957ABC performs on their 2014 U.S. tour at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, C.A. on October 4, 2014

AGOURA HILLS, C.A. – Martin Fry, the pop master frontman of ABC, is unquestionably British. His fine accent, the product of North West England, is matched by his debonair style and grace. But at the starting point of his 2014 tour through California, it’s easy to see why the polished swagger he crafted more than 30 years ago is a natural fit with the west coast.

At the dawn of new wave in the early 1980s, it took guts for Mr. Fry to convince British record executives that his flair for gold suits and lush symphonic pop would be a hit with worldwide audiences. In a sense, he was attempting to export the glamour of Hollywood to the more sterile U.K., and some didn’t buy it.

But millions of records and sold out orchestra tours later, Fry is having the last laugh.

Here at the Canyon Club, nestled in the hills above Los Angeles, he takes the stage at 9:00 on the dot to a standing-room only crowd that hangs on his every word beginning with the opening notes of “The Very First Time”, a track borrowed off his latest album.

Fry looks fit as a fiddle, and doesn’t disappoint in the fashion department with a three-piece suit and a narrow black tie.

Singing for fourth night in a row, he remarkably sounds just as fresh as ever. The deep resonance of his voice, its raw emotion, the falsetto – it’s all still there. Reaching for the high notes during “Poison Arrow” appears to be an effortless task.

“I’ve grown a lot as a singer over the years,” he told us during a backstage interview before the show.

He wasn’t kidding.

The set list weaves a delicate path through the history of ABC, stopping at selections from nearly every era of the band’s catalog. Deeper cuts like “The Night You Murdered Love” and “That Was Then, This Is Now” don’t sound dated at all despite their ’80s origins.

The credit for this timeless sound lands on Fry, the band’s lyricist and composer, and the top-notch lineup of musicians he has assembled to surround him.

Mike Backer on guitar adds depth to the songs with creative soloing that appears in just the right places. The remainder of the band is so convincingly good you might think they were with Fry when he laid down the impeccable Lexicon of Love record.

And the band did play several important cuts from that treasured album, the most pleasing of which was a truly moving “All of My Heart”, complete with its requisite tone of longing.

Fry takes joy in it all, wearing a smile between songs and appearing to get lost in the audience’s reaction to his music.

For the show’s close, nothing could have sealed the deal quite like a mellow “Be Near Me”, reminding the audience that perhaps no one has put their finger on the pulse of the intersection of love and music quite like ABC.

Later this week, we’ll publish our interview with Martin Fry. For the rest of ABC’s tour dates, visit www.abcmartinfry.com.

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