Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison.

It’s been well over thirty years since Howard Jones asked us to “throw off our mental chains”; to challenge our preconceived ideas. How time flies by. In support of his brand new ‘Best Of’ Howard Jones release entitled ‘BEST (1983-2017)’, and now with all new and extended Electric Band, he’s put doing a series of five shows across the UK, including tonight’s at Birmingham’s o2 Institute.

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With a 10pm curfew in place we miss the start of tonight’s support artist (which should have been 80s ‘Safety Dance’ band; Men Without Hats) Dan Burton, an unsigned electronic and dance producer from South Wales, who indeed does take us on a trance / dance journey. Clearly enjoying his set, he goes down well with the electronica loving punters tonight.

So to Howard Jones. One of the pop synths idols of the mid-eighties, hitting and succeeding in the commercial side of pop, alongside the likes of Nik Kershaw. His first album ‘Human’s Lib’ went to number 1 in the UK charts – a platinum seller. Second album ‘Dream Into Action’ made No 2 and went gold. He continued to sell for a while, but the scene moved on, and Jones found himself on the outskirts of the industry. That hasn’t stopped him, he continues to record and perform, self-publishing and promoting and has a loyal fan-base.

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Tonight’s set with new band in tow, we are told we can expect to hear many of Howard’s chart topping singles as well as new songs that featured in the recent Eddie the Eagle film (2016) and his 2015 multi-media ‘ENGAGE’ project.  Howard will be touring with his new Electric Band which features Emily Dolan Davies on electric percussion, Robin Boult on guitars, Robbie Bronnimann on keyboards and sequencing and Jonathan Atkinson on drums. Jones is excited about the tour: “We have been working on the new electronic show for many months now and I cannot wait to tour with new Electric Band.”

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And the set starts off in that direction with ‘ Like To Get To Know You Well’ and ‘Conditioning’ from ‘Human’s Lib’ and ‘Mama’, sounding more powerful with his new Electronic Band. Next up the ‘The Prisoner’ about a stalking analogue photographer analogue that’s kinda creepy. The punters are getting into the gig, the people next to me and dancing away and taking selfies with Jones in the background.

‘Everlasting Love’ gives Jones the opportunity to funkup , dance up now he has his band of merry electronic brothers and sister in tow, which shoots into a bit of ‘Twist and Shout.’ ‘You Know I Love You, Don’t You?’ he dedicates fans for 30 years…“you know I love you!” ‘Hide and Seek’ get’s a ‘Vangelis’ treatment. On ‘Human Touch’ he reminds us that as much as well all love modern technology, and he indeed embraces the latest out there, that everyone needs a human connection – very much like he gets when performing live.

‘Life in One Day’ tub-thumps to a crescendo with a stonking electronic drumbeat, before newbie ‘We’re In This Together’ and set compete with a sing-along: ‘What Is Love?’

For the encore he tells us that before he went on his musical journey he worked in a cling film factory, and dreamed of the day he could concentrate on music and then ‘ Things Can Only Get Better’, plus reprised techno upbeat version.

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Howard Jones is yet another 80s icon who sticks in there. Chart successes may be a little way behind him, but he continues to produce new music and finds innovative ways of getting his message across. Tonight’s show was a testament to an extremely talented, creative soul who clearly has much more to offer, and freed from the constraints of the major record labels can steer his own course and now is doing so with his new electronic partners in crime!  These handful of dates may be over but you can catch him next weekend at the Electric Dreams Weekender, 1st – 4th December 2017, at Butlin’s Bognor Regis Resort, along with the likes of The Human League, Thomas Dolby, A Flock of Seagulls and many more….

For more images from tonight’s gig visit out Flickr page.


Setlist:
Like To Get To Know You Well
Conditioning
Look Mama
The Prisoner
Everlasting Love
You Know I Love You, Don’t You?
No One Is To Blame
Equality
Hide and Seek
The Human Touch
Eagle Will Fly Again
Life In One Day
We’re In This Together
What Is Love?

Encore:
New Song
Things Can Only Get Bette

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