ABC at Bath Forum with The Southbank Sinfonia 18.6.2022

Bit of a special one this. Out in Bath to celebrate my gig buddy Dave’s big birthday – a group of mates from our early 80s Birmingham days, with partners – the five of us were geography students so we had half a chance of finding the place (OK six of us were here last night for Elvis Costello ).

Signed tour poster

It’s the 40th anniversary of ABC’s Lexicon of Love album being performed with an orchestra, a pretty full one that fills the stage: The Southbank Sinfonia. Worth making an effort then, so Dave’s international tailors kitted us out. A lot of fun wandering around Bath in these and Martin Fry and the guys appreciated it.

No no.. that’s not the band

ABC may be classic early 80s pop but I never saw them back then. I didn’t see the shimmer of their jackets until the 80s revival gigs: for me these were in the form of a one-day festival at Newton Abbot Racecourse in 2016 and later at Let’s Rock Exeter, Powderham Castle in 2021. Both positive experiences but without the indoor focus of a specific gig of theirs… and without wearing a fancy jacket.

No support tonight… not sure they could get any more people and instruments back stage. The orchestra is an impressive size, almost spilling off the stage, as they take their places and warm up. The Southbank Sinfonia barely leaves room for the members of ABC.

Out come the band; Martin Fry last – looking as cool and smart as ever, jacket maybe not as flash as ours 😉 and they start with When Smokey Sings. One of the best.

ABC take the stage – with orchestra

We are sat in the front row – nine of us all told – almost too close to wave a camera about so I was quite restrained with the pics. The sound is fantastic with the orchestra – it’s a polished, stylish opening that never deteriorates. In this first half it’s the non-Lexicon of Love part with the other big song of note being The Night You Murdered Love (you know… the one you used to point at your mates during the chorus of, when dancing to it.)

Part one set list nabbed post gig

Nearly everyone is seated in this first part but with the occasional enthusiastic woman appearing to drag a jacket clad geographer up for a dance. Hard to say no eventually but I daren’t look up at the crowd – fortunately we’d been drinking all afternoon or I may have glued myself to my seat.

After the interval, which saw the huge bar queues move surprisingly fast up upstairs, ABC return with their fine orchestral backing to play The Lexicon of Love, in full. The album was released on 21 June 1982 so it is pretty bang on 40 years ago.

Fry ups the ante on the jacket front

The front section fills up as the hits roll out; ending up as a large standing area. Look of Love, Poison Arrow, All of My Heart and above all The Look of Love. 80s dreamland. It is a hard not-to-like album if you were there at the time. They’re a hard not-to-like band with very hard not to admire frontman in Martin Fry.

Fry with orchestral conductor behind

Fry turns out in a change of jacket in part two, commenting on the tuxedo wars breaking out. He ups his game with a shimmering gold number for the later songs, clearly rattled by the competition and he romps over the line as tonight’s winner.

Front row view

What a happy gathering. It’s not often anyone sees me bopping about in sparkly jacket but this was a party night, for everyone from what I could see not just our birthday crowd. Great atmosphere.

Happy birthday Lexicon of Love; happy big birthday gig-buddy Dave.

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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  1. Maybe it’s because I was 19 in 1982, same as Ivan, that this album never ages. I saw ABC also recently at Let’s Rock Wales in Newport but to my chagrin they didn’t play what I consider their absolute best song, Date Stamp. This does require the extra cost of a female vocal but even so, for shame, Martin, for shame…


  2. This takes me back to happy student days sitting in my mate Phil’s house in Belle Vue, Manchester and us all raving over this great album out of nowhere. Sounds like a great shout.
    I’m not sure there will be a tour for their second album Beauty Stab – which I see was described as a career killer – well that person was wrong


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