True Friends Again(link: http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/music/true-friends-again/2009/05/23/1242498975781.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1)
May 24, 2009
Spandau Ballet tell Celia Walden how they mended rifts to hit the road again.
It's 1AM on Nikki beach in Cannes. Seagulls circle overhead and Tony Hadley is singing the first few bars of True in my ear. Recognising the voice through the din of the club, two micro-skirted girls wander over.
"You're not? Oh, my God - you are!"
"I am," Hadley agrees.
"Do you know that True is my favourite karaoke song ever?"
Spandau Ballet get the karaoke comment a lot - that, and men expressing their heartfelt thanks to the band for providing the soundtrack to adolescent fumbles and later proposals.
What do the boys feel when they hear one of their hits?
"I think pride is the word," says songwriter Gary Kemp.
"Yeah," says Hadley. "I'm just glad I wasn't in Kajagoogoo. Everybody wants to leave a mark in their lives and we've left ours."
You can't argue with that. Spandau Ballet's '80s power-pop ballads and new romantic look defined a generation. When the band broke up in 1999, the records kept selling - 25million to date. Then, a decade ago, during a court case when three of the five-piece band tried to sue Kemp for unpaid royalties, Hadley insisted that "hell will freeze over before we get back together".
"It must be bloody cold, then," Kemp chuckles.
The band announced their reformation two months ago, deciding that there was no better place than the Cannes Film Festival to promote their world tour.
With the band's combined age of 241, there was always a worry that my "night with Spandau Ballet" could have turned into Horlicks back at the hotel but a 10-year break from pop-star antics means that Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp and brother Martin, John Keeble and Steve Norman are raring to go.
Hadley, once pale and effete, is now a thickset, amiable-faced 48-year-old, while 49-year-old Gary's features have turned from raffish to faintly villainesque. Martin, the blithely good-looking former EastEnders star and youngest of the bunch at 47, fills the "little brother" role in the group.
"What we've missed the most is the banter," he says, revealing a rack of white teeth. "There was a huge part gone from my life after we split up."
Saxophonist Steve Norman says: "When you talk to footballers who have retired, they never say that they miss playing the game; they miss the dressing room and the camaraderie, and it was the same with us."
Still, there must have been a night of grievance-airing.
"A night?" Hadley blasts. "More like two years of it. There were plenty of times when Gary and I ended up abusing each other, but we got through it."
Gary says: "It took us a while to realise that it's not defeat to go back, it's victory."
It is also, of course, the promise of serious cash. In a climate when jumpsuits are back in fashion, Spandau Ballet saw a chance to make a Take That-style comeback. "There are all these comparisons with Take That," Gary says, "but we're really different to them. We are a band. There's a guitar player, a drummer, singer, bass; that's a very different thing to be a part of. People yearn for the '80s because pop music was so fantastic in those days."
Hadley signs an autograph for a pretty Italian fan whose wedding dance, she volunteers in broken English, was to True. "It's amazing the effect that song had," Gary says. "I remember Kevin Costner saying, 'That was my wife and I's most important record."'
Keeble says: "It's crazy how many fans have stayed with us from the first time around."
Will the boys be donning the eye make-up and stonewashed jeans for their tour? "We do want to grow old reasonably gracefully," Hadley says. "There's nothing worse than 48-year-old rock musicians trying to dress like 20-year-olds.
"And this time, we're in it for the long haul. What the past 10 years have taught us is that we will never have a hiatus again." And they all toast the sentiment.
"Mainly because we are too old …" Gary laughs. "We will always be part of Spandau Ballet from now on."