Thursday, October 2, 2014

ABC concert review: Riverside, Calif.

“Our job is to take you on a journey,” said ABC’s Martin Fry on Wednesday at Romano’s Concert Lounge in Riverside, Calif.

He definitely succeeded during an hour-long set that included several selections off 1982 high water mark The Lexicon of Love right up to the present.

Last March, ABC followed a 2012 London performance which marked the 30th anniversary of Lexicon with additional gigs in Birmingham, Manchester and London, England.

The classic album was played front to back in those select UK cities alongside Southbank Sinfonia and its original orchestrator Anne Dudley.

This sold out Riverside concert, before an intimate crowd of 300 people, was a real treat for fans since ABC plays to much larger audiences around Europe. In fact, California enthusiasts can catch them live during a bunch of small venue shows throughout the state this month (see full routing below). One couple in attendance Wednesday traveled all the way from Kansas.

Looking dapper as ever in a navy blue suit and tie, Fry and the latest incarnation of ABC (scaled down to a four-piece) kicked things off with “The Very First Time.” The sleek song boasted a funkier undertow live and was the first of three taken from off solid 2008 comeback album Traffic.

Fry belted out well-known hits like “Show Me” and “Poison Arrow” with vigor. Some snazzy keyboard work, plus a blazing guitar solo by Matt Backer, made “That Was Then But This is Now” an early highlight.

“How to Be a Millionaire” prompted a dancing frenzy, while the percolating synth and T-Rex inspired guitar line on “Ride” (another Traffic tune) was memorable. Then Fry noted that 1987’s luxurious “King Without a Crown” was inspired by Britain’s Royal Family.

Later, before romantic ballad “All of My Heart,” the English  singer pointed out the venue’s promotional fliers were 32 years old, then prompted the crowd to sway like they were at the Glastonbury Festival. Everyone immediately responded, Fry had no problems with the high harmonies (assisted by Backer) and a wash of idyllic synth sounds made it a pure delight.

“Tears are Not Enough” was an infectious slice of dance/pop, while the high energy soul of “When Smokey Sings” found people clapping along and many drunken guys pogoed along (not easy when the median age was 40+).

Finally, ABC finished with the ultra-dramatic “The Look of Love,” returned for an encore of “Be Near Me” and left fans wanting more.

Backer did a blues rock-leaning, 25-minute opening set comprised of songs from his new album Get Backer. It features high profile guest contributions from former Shakespear’s Sister member Marcella Detroit and Peter Cox (lead singer of Go West). First single “Histrionic Narcissist Blues” has received national airplay at Adult Contemporary radio.

The American singer/guitarist has recorded with Julian Lennon, Joe Cocker, ABC, Swing Out Sister (among others) and has had music in multiple film and TV programs. He fared best at Romano’s during the humorous “Take Me Back to Abu Dhabi” and “Too Big to Fail.”

Richard Blade warmed up the crowd with some Eighties modern rock tunes, contest trivia and fascinating anecdotes about Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Billy Idol and more. The veteran deejay and television host - best known for his longtime stint on KROQ/106.7 FM in Los Angeles - currently does a daily show on Sirius XM radio's First Wave station. 

ABC Tour Dates:

10/3 Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA
10/4 Canyon Club, Agoura Hills, CA
10/5 Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills, CA
10/6 Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
10/9 SLO Brew, San Luis Obispo, CA
10/10 The Cave, Big Bear Lake, CA
10/16 Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA
10/17 New Wave Bar, Bellflower, CA
10/18 That 80s Bar, Montclair, CA

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