Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Howard Jones @ London Indigo O2

The name Howard Jones may not be familiar to younger readers of this blog, except for my article about a certain DJ Hojo Hits a while ago, and for older readers probably brings back memories of bad eighties haircuts, a mime artist called Jed and synth pop. But for Breaking More Waves, the music of Howard Jones has probably had more influence on my life than any other. Whereas those with so called musical credibility may claim that Dylan, The Beatles, Jeff Buckley or Nirvana influenced their lives, I am happy to announce that I really don’t care about credibility and am happy to stand alone on this one. Yes, the man who sang in his first ever hit the line “Throw off those mental chains,” probably made me do exactly that. Jones has made me think more about my philosophy to life than any other artist. From his lyrics of “Challenging preconceived ideas,” to “Thoughts and actions, words you've spoken write the scripts of life and open up the possibilities,” his themes of change through positive action, and that of taking risks and taking responsibility for my own individual world to influence the world at large struck a deep chord. “Changes in the heart of just one, will affect entire nations,” Jones sang, and this ripple turning to a wave effect is something that I have absolute belief in. Jones is not just a singer but a mini philosopher, albeit one with spiky blonde hair and a lot of keyboards.

So from those early hits of the eighties Jones has continued to write and record to the present day, releasing albums on his own independent label dtox records. He also still plays numerous acoustic and electric shows.

Now, after twenty five years in the music industry, Jones has decided to celebrate, and has put on a special 25th anniversary concert at the ultra modern, superbly functional Indigo 02 in the Millenium Dome, London.

The gig clocks in at around two and a half hours with over twenty five songs in two sets. And it starts with this video....

Then Jones takes to the stage at the piano, accompanied by Robin Boult on acoustic guitar, with a pitch perfect string section being added as the show continues. The sound is excellent throughout, every word Jones sings having clarity; one of the advantages of a state of the art purpose built music venue. Jones shows his conviction to keep moving forward by playing several new songs including Ordinary Heroes which celebrates ordinary people doing incredible things in their everyday lives and Straight Ahead, a song which lyrically talks about having hope even through bad times. The second half, after a short interval, is fully electric with Howard blasting out the hits such as What Is Love, Pearl In The Shell, New Song and Things Can Only Get Better on his synth, joined by a plethora of musicians including backing vocalists, live drums, bass, brass and guitars not too mention a crowd who are happy to revel and dance in a nostalgic trip back to the songs of their youth.

A variety of special guests are also introduced; Nick Heyward from Haircut 100 joins Jones after just 2 songs and announces him as “The Neil Diamond of synth pop,” before playing his hit Fantastic Day with him and later there is a huge round of applause as a now very bald Nik Kershaw arrives on stage to perform Wouldn’t It Be Good. For hardcore Jones fans probably the biggest and most appreciated surprise is when Duncan Sheik appears to play, the first time they have ever performed live together in the UK. Here is Duncan on guitar and Howard on piano for the ballad Someone You Need.

At 53 years of age, Howard Jones’ singing voice is actually better now than it was 25 years ago, stronger and more resonant; and of course he is an incredibly accomplished keyboard player. But despite the spiky blonde hair, catchy synth pop songs and elements of nostalgia to the gig, what comes across most is that through his relaxed persona and friendly way that he interacts with the crowd and his band, Howard Jones is genuinely one of the nice guys.

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