Reliving a life in love with ERASURE and photos from Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre show

My very first concert was Culture Club, on November 10. 1984. Gay and queer culture made sense to me as a kid, so I’d like to thank my parents for raising me in a household that celebrated equality and love, in a city and country that made it easier to do so. Even at a young age, it all made sense to me. New wave music, guys wearing make-up, Annie Lennox’s hair, Sinéad O’Connor’s bald head, Robert Smith’s make up, everything David Bowie ever did. All of it, just wonderful.

Beyond my experience with Culture Club (and playing Jon Moss in my Grade 6 lipsynch band), there are many moments of queer culture in music that are etched into my mind. One of them was the first time I saw the video for Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” – it was beautiful and broke my heart.  Jimmy Somerville is also responsible for another essential musical moment in my life, though one more positive: The Communards’ cover of Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” fills me with so much joy it’s like a zeppelin expands in me when I hear the song. AHHHH BABY! My heart is full of love and desire for you! is the sound of the end of the night, you’re in the club, you’re sticking to the floor, you’re in love with your friends. All of it of it, just wonderful.

In the mid-1980s, I discovered Erasure. Of course, I’d already known Vince Bell’s stuff, he’d been in Depeche Mode (and Yazoo and The Associates) so when the album Wonderland and “Who Needs Love Like That?” bounced onto music television in 1986 or so, I was smitten. Even if Erasure was, like, unicorn rainbow shiny glitter synthpop, I LOVED them.

So in 1989, I had to FIND THE UNICORNS. Me and my bi friend Rob (who used to crimp and tease my hair to make me look like Robert Smith) went downtown and stood outside of Toronto’s Massey Hall at soundcheck o’clock and waited to meet Erasure. Hooray! In this moment, below, I asked singer Andy Bell where he’d be going to party after the show. He laughed. He said he had no idea. So I suggested my favourite gay club that I wasn’t old enough to get into.

Every person needs a favourite gay club.

Later, at the concert, Andy, dressed in a green shiny glitter unitard did a cover of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” It was the camp-est thing I’d ever seen and I LOVED it. All of it, just wonderful.

By 1990, The Circus, The Innocents and Wild! albums had all come out, birthing belters like “Victim of Love”, “Sometimes” “Ship of Fools”, “Chains of Love”, “Blue Savannah” and the mother of all Erasure anthems “A Little Respect”. And I loved them even more. I bought 12 inches on vinyl and singles on CD and loved every video on MuchMusic and despite being a fully devoted miserable goth girl, I found a home in Erasure’s weird kind of positivity. Everyone welcome! That year, I stood again trying to meet the band, this time with friends I’d known and friends I’d never met. That’s me in between Vince in the red t-shirt and Andy in the cap.

Fast forward 27-ish (!) years and Erasure brought out a new album. The world is so grey, so bereft of joy, so it’s time to find my way back to a band that made me smile so much in the past. Their latest album, World Be Gone, sums it up, really, and is edgier and downcast, but still beautiful and hopeful in parts, and its very existence gives us all a chance to see Erasure live once again. And Erasure touring again means there’s another chance to bring together the clans: the over-40s, the people who didn’t fit in in highschool or in life, the fetish fans, the fat-and-fierce girls, the queers, the campiest gays, the bears, the oddball straights, the bros who like disco, the people with huge hearts who would hug you at the end of a great night, the fabulous people. In Vancouver, at the Orpheum Theatre, all of these were represented, as I suspect they are at every Erasure show.

Erasure at the Orpheum in Vancouver, August 15

Then Erasure came on, in their own boxes, framed by light. First, backup singers Emma Whittle and Valerie Chalmers. Blue-lit and Amazonian beautiful. Then, stone-faced hero Vince Clarke took up his position on the second floor behind his stack of synths. Then finally, Andy Bell, a hurricane of clashig patterns, graced the stage and the room erupted. Dressed in a dark jacket adorned with a dripping wax-like substance on its shoulders, layered over a dark shirt with a neon face, hanging over his floral-patterened skirt, which was all later removed to reveal a see-through meshy sort of floral/Asian art/tattoo body stocking, set off with black and white patent babydoll shoes, well, he was a vision. We missed Andy Bell. And in moments, when he clasped his hands, and looked humbled, it looked like he missed us too.

Lifetime-spanning setlist

The setlist was a gift spanning decades of memories – starting with “Oh L’Amour”, then “Ship of Fools” in there, and then you were reminded just how many Erasure songs have “Love” in the title, because they were all in the room that night: “Chains of Love”, “Just a Little Love”, “Victim of Love”, “Who Needs Love Like That?” (which, Andy explains was his audition song for Vince, during a time when Vince had “What, two, or three bands? Do you count the Associates?”), “Love To Hate You” and newer one “Love You To the Sky.” A whole lotta love. In all of its shades.

And Andy’s voice was still strong – thinning a wee bit in the falsetto but to be expected on tour, he was medicating with whiskey. “Drama!”, “Always” “Blue Savannah” and “Stop” stood out. And again, a cover. This time, not from the Wizard of Oz, but, because Blondie once inspired Andy to dye his hair blonde, he said, so we got a strong version of “Atomic.”

And through every single song, I smiled. All the lyrics flooded back despite not listening to these albums for decades. Then, to close the night, Vince came down from his perch, awkwardly, to the front of the stage, with a guitar and for the encore came “A Little Respect”. The anthem of all anthems. The song that had probably meant a lot to every person in that room in many different ways.

And all of it,  just wonderful. \m/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *