Page last updated at 19:57 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

'Just like old times' say Spandau

Spandau Ballet reunion
Spandau Ballet had a recent rehearsal to make sure they still clicked

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

"Before anyone asks, we're not wearing kilts, frilly shirts, my mum's blouse or anything else like that."

Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley is on stage with his four bandmates for the first time in 20 years, talking about their reunion.

As well as being big news for 1980s pop fans, the band's world tour also marks one of the most unlikely comebacks in music.

After making their name in a flamboyant haze of new romantic costumes and new wave pop at the start of the decade, they hit global stardom with the slick, saxed-up soul of True and Gold in 1983.

Spandau Ballet on Top of the Pops in 1980
Gary Kemp (left) and Tony Hadley fell out spectacularly

Following their split in 1989, fans thought the chances of a Spandau Ballet reunion were as likely as frilly shirts, tartan trousers and bushy mullets making a comeback.

It is dark suits all round these days, but the five bandmates are together again - acting like old chums with little sign of the acrimony and animosity that once tore them apart.

Gary Kemp, the band's guitarist and creative force, explains how the reconciliation came about. "About three years ago, I remixed the 1986 live show [DVD]," he says. "I sat there watching it and I couldn't believe how exciting it was.

"I thought - I want to be back up there! This is really good!" The sour feelings that followed their split meant the fivesome had "all been in denial about the band for so long", he adds.

Relations had been severed when Kemp was sued by Hadley, saxophonist Steve Norman and drummer John Keeble for a share of songwriting profits in a bitter case that ended up in the High Court in 1999.

At the time, Kemp said the action had "besmirched the history of the band I was proud of" and the aftermath of his eventual victory was "like walking away from a car crash - you're glad to be alive but mortified and shocked by the wreckage".

John and I were like two heralds on a battlefield saying 'enough is enough - maybe there's something more here than just fighting'
Gary Kemp

He then threatened Hadley, Norman and Keeble with court action for billing themselves as "ex-Spandau Ballet" when they went back on the road as a trio.

The apparent breakdown led Hadley to say in 2003: "I never want to see those people again. I want to walk away from that side of my life."

But after Gary Kemp felt the urge to return to the stage, he spoke to brother Martin, the band's bassist, and called Norman.

"I hadn't spoken to Steve for a long time - seen him across a courtroom but that was all," Gary Kemp recalls. "We had lunch together but it wasn't right for John and Tony at that point.

"And then about a year ago, John and I were like two heralds on a battlefield saying: 'Enough is enough. Maybe there's something more here than just fighting.'"

The five eventually met in a pub - and, they say, it was just like old times.

"We got together, had a few beers, stories came up, the anecdotes, all the old jokes sounded as funny as they did 20 years ago, and we just realised that we're great mates," says Hadley.

Spandau Ballet
The group may work on new material if the tour goes well

He reveals: "We've had a rehearsal, which sounded $1m." Whether the reunion will be worth that much to the band is not known.

But the prospect of a large cheque cannot have harmed the case for a comeback - especially for the trio that lost the court action, who were then left with £400,000 legal bills and struggled to build solo careers.

"It was good fun," Norman says of the rehearsal.

"We connected again back in that place in the early '80s when we were really good mates, really good buddies, and all the problems that we'd been going through in the last 20 years became irrelevant."

So, one reporter wants to know, how will the royalties be split this time?

"Ooh, contentious!" says Gary Kemp in mock horror. "A private matter, I think."

Then Hadley butts in: "Gary's giving them all to me."

Nice try, Tony, but a press conference joke is probably not a binding agreement.

Reunion gamble

In 1986, the year of their last hit, Spandau Ballet commanded five nights at Wembley Arena. This time, in London, they will recapture old glories with one night at the O2, and the prospect of more if ticket sales go well.

Money-spinning, nostalgia-inducing reunions are big business among fans keen to recapture their youth.

Duran Duran's original line-up returned with five sold-out nights at Wembley Arena in 2004, while The Police and Genesis filled stadiums.

Take That's reformation has been one of the biggest success stories in music in recent years - but their chart rivals East 17 and New Kids on the Block were met with tepid receptions.

As one of the archetypal '80s bands, Spandau Ballet are big enough and have been away for long enough to pull in the crowds for a while - with or without the frilly shirts.



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