Howard Jones trio at The Anvil, Basingstoke 15.10.2022 with Roxanne de Bastion supporting
A rare trip to Basingstoke….yes Basingstoke! My third trip to The Anvil here and the previous two, as with tonight, were both to see bands emanating from the 80s, but in the last five years: China Crisis and an ’80s Invasion’ tour with Big Country, Midge Ure, Nick Heyward and Curiosity Killed the Cat, well the singer anyway.
Tonight’s trip, induced by some spare tickets going 😁👍in the front row, was an easy drive up the M3 with a stopover, which turned out to be in the same hotel as Howard Jones and the others in his trio – Nick Beggs (once of Kajagoogoo) and Robin Boult.
The Anvil is a theatre with a 1,400 seated capacity. It opened in 1994 and looks smart once inside – a relaxing place with plush carpets and smiling bar staff who look like they are enjoying the evening. Sometimes an all-seated medium sized theatre can be a constraint (I felt like that when I saw Big Country here) but it was ideal for tonight’s show. You get a focused audience listening carefully – no chat – no phones – no cameras. No pics from me then but hey it’s good to have a rest sometimes.
Tonight’s support was solo singer-songwriter-keyboards-guitarist Roxanne de Bastion. The theatre was a perfect environment for her voice and to absorb the emotion in her lyrics… and her semi-acoustic Rickenbacker guitar.
She refers to growing up in Berlin, lives in London now, as she sings Wasteland (official video on YouTube) from her new album and that one sticks with me – modern Berlin sat across decades of horrible history (my wife Sally bought a copy of the album at the interval – You & Me, We Are the Same.) There’s encouragement from the attentive audience, even some participative singing and an 80s reward with a version of Erasure’s A Little Respect. Such a clear voice and sounding so uncluttered with the Rickenbacker or the keyboard.
At the break I almost say hi to someone I thought I knew then realise I don’t: it’s designer Jeff Banks. I wish I’d stopped to thank him for the Debenhams expanding waist, smart work trousers I wore when I was my previously more portly self. He did some work on Howard Jones’ outfits – a hastily Googled fact that confirmed it was him.
I’m of the Live Aid generation and grew up with those massive Howard Jones 80s radio singles but I have only seen him once: that was at Let’s Rock Exeter in 2021. I feel my knowledge and appreciation is a bit superficial for a seat right in front of the man, just in front of the centre stage. It doesn’t matter though: this performance is so absorbing.
Songs are introduced to enhance the context and understanding, and appreciate the Jones journey. The musicians either side of him – Nick Beggs (with an ornate upright bass stringed instrument and something I had to look up – a 10 string ‘Chapman stick’: fascinating) and Robin Boult (guitars including acoustic 12-string) – are an incredible watch. I’m in awe of that 12-string made to look so light and just hover in Robin Boult’s hands.
The set respects the popularity of the first two Howard Jones albums with more than half the songs from those. Only one from the 2022 album Dialogue and a hand-picked selection from across his other albums – with the synth-keyboard at the heart of it all with some great piano improvisation for the others to watch and follow.
Room is made early on to introduce Too Shy, number one single in 1983 for Kajagoogoo and co-written by Beggs. Howard points out that it’s not just anyone that can write a global number one hit record, teasing the audience about not being able to play it for contractual reasons…..before obliging.
The set draws to a close with the string of hit singles. Familiar 80s synthpop classics: Like to Get to Know You Well; Things Can Only Get Better; What is Love and then New Song. The audience are on their feet to salute the climax and the trio return for another single from the first album, Hide and Seek.
Everyone seemed to enjoy it – hard to imagine otherwise as the show is so well put together to perfectly exhibit the talent and experience on the stage.
As I said, no pics from me tonight but my wife Sally did grab a photo post-performance. Oh …and go on then, there was one before the gig.