Detroit Starrzz, Numa Bar, Wolverhampton 27th July 2012
Anyone who was around during the 1980’s would know the name and the face of Steve Strange. A man who really needs no introduction; The face of 1980’s studio-based supergroup with Rusty Egan (Rich Kids), Midge Ure (Ultravox) Billy Currie (Ultravox) John McGeoch (Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees), Dave Formula (Magazine) Barry Adamson (Magazine, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) Gary Barnacle, Steve Barnacle and Andy Barnett, to name but a few.
Releasing their first single in 1979 “Tar” and Debut album, the eponymous “Visage” in late 1980, “Fade to Grey” became a massive top ten hit in the UK and Europe (with No.1 spots in Germany and Switzerland) and was followed by “Mind of a Toy” and title track “Visage”.
Their second album “The Anvil” was released in 1982, with a classic Helmut Newton Black and White shot of Strange on the cover and giving Visage a further two Top Twenty singles; "The Damned Don't Cry" and "Night Train". Like “Visage”, The Anvil earned a Silver disc in the UK from album sales. Often the case with such collaborations, conflicting commitments meant that various members’ contribution to the second album was limited and personnel conflicts and changes inevitable.
By this time Ure, McGeoch and Adamson had left the band. Their next single released in October 1982, “Pleasure Boys” just missed the top 40. The band took a break for a couple of years and released the “Beat Boy” album in 1984, but the two singles from this album "Love Glove" and "Beat Boy" didn’t hit the charts. The band split in 1985. Strange then formed “Strange Cruise” with Wendy Wu, but the singles and the album released weren’t successful.
Fast forward to today, skipping over Strange’s more recent history, Strange is back on form and back in the limelight with the band Detroit Starrzz formed with Patrick Ruane (Nightstylers), Steve Strange, Andy Adamson (DJ Little Andy) and Lauren Du Valle. The Detroit Starrzz sound is “a unique brand of breaks and beats-inspired synth-pop” according to their Facebook Biography. With a number of tracks already under their belts and out there on YouTube and also with an album in production, tonight is a showcase for new sounds and a new band image.
But first, the support act for this evening is KRAFT, local rap artist Dan “Kraft” Favil accompanied by fellow artists Christian Esson “Kupid” and others who join him on stage at various times through the set. His debut single “Continue the Push” and album “Pushin’ On” are out now.
At first sight Favil would not appear to fit with a Steve Strange/Detroit Starrzz show, but he is as influenced by electronic music as he is by current rappers. Indeed, during the set he references both Visage and Numan and acknowledges Nine Inch Nails existence to such artists. Favil raps over Visages “Frequency 7” and Numan tracks as well as covering Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”. His diverse hour long set also sees him pick up a guitar on some tracks. One track performed with Kupid is a “call and response” style track and the audience are invited to join in and they do! Remember the name Kraft; he’ll certainly be one to look out for in future.
Bizarrely, despite the show being a Sell-Out (all tickets having been sold in the days leading up to the show according to the gig’s promoter) there is a very small audience of around 25-30 people. Whether the Olympic Opening Ceremony has enticed people to stay at home rather than venture out to a gig remains to be seen, but with both the Civic and Wulfrun Halls closed this evening, Wolverhampton seems like the proverbial Ghost Town.
Detroit Starrzz arrive on stage just over an hour late at around 10.50 having had their own transportations and personnel difficulties during the day, with Ruane and Adamson absent, but with Logan Sky making a last minute appearance as stand-in on keyboards.
The band arrive on stage in “Desert Storm” style with camouflage combat gear and make up and open with the Visage track “Tar” a warning song about the perils of nicotine addiction, with Strange having recently kicked the weed, the song now over 30 years old seems rather prescient. Strange performs the song flamboyantly and accompanies the lyrics “addiction, addiction..” with the actions of “shooting up” into his arm, and flings a cigarette into the audience.
“Tar” is followed by the Detroit Starrzz” debut single “Halo” which is a homage to the Xbox game and has been snapped up by Microsoft. “Pleasure Boys” 1982’s Visage single follows and then “Phone Sex” which was intended to be the band’s first single release and is reminiscent of The Anvil’ and its German version “Der Amboss”. Strange makes erotic gestures throughout to accompany the lyrics to the song.
Strange takes time to announce that a new Visage album is in the works and some of the original members of the band (Midge Ure, Rusty Egan and Dave Formula) have contributed to it. Next up is “Diary of a Madman” which Strange tells the audience is “for your eyes and ears only”. This is a Visage Mk 2 track written with Dave Formula. The song is instantly recognisable as “Visage” song and Strange’s singing style for this track is his classic Visage vocal. The song concludes with Strange on his knees singing (as though he is) through tears before slumping over a speaker box.
The 1982 album’s title track “The Anvil” follows, and concludes with Strange leaving the stage. Du Valle and Sky remain on stage with Du Valle encouraging Strange to return to sing “Fade to Grey”. Du Valle picks up the female spoken parts on the classic Visage song. The show closes with “Aiming for Gold”, Detroit Starrzz celebrating the London 2012 Olympics with their own tribute song.
The set is a short one, perhaps due to the lateness of the hour and the incomplete band line-up, however, despite the poor audience showing, the audience appeared to be enjoying the show and the band made the best of the situation with Du Valle and Sky performing well alongside Strange who remains one of the music’s true characters. The band has a wealth of material to be mined (both old Visage classic tracks and new Detroit Starrzz) and in particular a cover of David Bowie’s “Loving the Alien” which has been given the “thumbs up by the man himself! Rather than the obvious choice of “Ashes to Ashes” that most would have gone for, to his credit Strange wanted to do something different. Now that would please old and new fans alike, so will look forward to a full tour with the new album rather than a “one-off” show, and the new Visage album when it hits the shelves.
3. Pleasure Boys
4. Diary of a Madman
5. Phone Sex
6. The Anvil
7. Fade to Grey
8. Aiming for Gold
1982 The Anvil
1984 Beat Boy
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