Visage, Glee Club, Birmingham 23rd July 2013

And he’s back! Steve Strange has resurrected Visage. The 1980’s studio based supergroup originally formed 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 et al is now back on the road and with a new line-up, and a new album “Hearts and Knives”.

But first, a little history… 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”. “The Anvil”, their second album release, came out in 1982, giving Visage a further two Top Twenty singles; "The Damned Don't Cry" and "Night Train". Visage’s first two albums earning Silver discs in the UK from album sales, however, conflicting commitments between members meant that contribution to the second album was limited and personnel conflicts and changes became inevitable.

After “The Anvil” Ure, McGeoch and Adamson left the band. The next Visage single released in October 1982, “Pleasure Boys” missed out on a top 40 placing. Following an extended break, “Beat Boy” album was released in 1984, but neither of the two singles spawned from this album hit the charts. Following the band splitting up in 1985, Strange then formed “Strange Cruise” with Wendy Wu, but the singles and the album released weren’t successful.

Strange appeared in the summer of 2012 with a short-lived project “Detroit Starrzz” with a few live appearances, but all the time planning to get Visage reformed and an album out. May 2013 saw the release of “Hearts and Knives”, only their fourth studio album in thirty years. The original line-up having long since departed, Visage now comprises Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall (Detroit Starrzz), the legendary Robin Simon on guitar(Magazine, Ultravox!, Ajanta Music) and Steve Barnacle on bass (session musician and artist in his own right) so there is some real heavyweight talent behind Strange. The line-up for tonight’s Glee Club show is completed with Logan Sky on keyboards (having previously appeared with Detroit Starrzz) and Johnny Marter on drums.

There are issues about the use of the name “Visage” and still some difficulties that persist around the band. It is regrettable that the original line-up never did go on tour (and never will) as the group who put the “Visage” album together would have been a formidable force and blown many of the early 80’s artists off the stage.

Support for the show is “HiEM” a Sheffield based electronic/dance duo consisting of Nick "Nico" Eastwood and David "Bozz" Boswell. They have some pedigree too, having been around since 1999 and collaborations with such artists as Roots Manuva and Phil Oakey, as well as contributions to a number of dance compilations and radio sessions for Radio 1 and XFM.

Eastwood appears in a bright green jumpsuit, and Boswell in dark shirt, hat and blue neckerchief…an unlikely duo, but engaging characters with some “Northern Soul”. The band play a short set of electronic disco/funk/ tracks including; “Highlife”, “Japanese Motor Car”, “Chelsea” a Northern accented rap about a delightful young girl, “GtBR”, current single “Hotspace” and finishing with“2BReal” from their current album “Escape from Division Street”. If you like your electronic music on the funky side, these guys will fit the bill.
After a short break, Visage arrive on stage in “Desert Storm” style with camouflage combat gear with Duvall and Strange making their grand entrance. The band kick off with “Never Enough” from the new album, the sound is good and well-rounded with Simon’s guitar announcing his presence.. Strange is in ebullient form, flamboyantly waving, dancing and chatting with the audience between songs.

“Damned Don’t Cry” from “The Anvil” follows and sounds particularly good with Sky’s keyboards coming into their own. Strange’s voice, bolstered by Duvall’s backing holds up well enough. Next up “Shameless Fashion” the first single lifted from “Hearts and Knives” (and a free download to fans), and then “The Anvil” with Strange briefly recounting the source of the song was a “Men Only” club, but went on to say that he couldn’t tell the story at the Cardiff show as his mother was in the audience.

Back to the show, “Hidden Sign” off “the current album comes next, closely followed by “Pleasure Boys” and then even further back to “Mind of a Toy”, where Strange’s voice seems a little exposed. During the song he grabs a mobile phone (belonging to one of the audience) and has a quick chat to someone. At the end of the song Strange and Duvall leave the stage.

The band remain on stage and treat the audience to a rip-roaring extended version of “The Dancer” from the “Visage” album, with guitar, drum, bass and keyboard solos really showing the calibre of the band, with each member showing their muscle. A proper aural treat from some real pro’s. Strange and Duvall return to stage following a costume change, in black evening wear and sporting hats, with Strange clutching a bottle of water to keep the voice hydrated. “Dreamer I Know”, the current single from the new album then “Digital Age” screams ”this is the new reality”. Strange announces that he is having problem with his voice again, but will “Soldier on” whilst necking some medicine from a bottle.

The Dave Formula penned track “Diary of a Madman” is up next with Strange lying on his back on stage for the big song finish. Strange asks for help on the chorus for a song they’ve not played for 25 years as the intro to “Fade to Grey” begins and the audience duly oblige. The final song of the show is the title track from the “Visage” album and closes the show with a flourish.

Despite the Glee Club being a little over only half full tonight, you wouldn’t know it. The audience crowd around the packed stage whilst Strange holds court in these intimate surroundings. Strange bounces around the stage throughout (knocking Simon’s microphone stand a few times in the process) and talks with the audience about putting this “brilliant” band together to play live. It is a far better performance than the previous outing with Detroit Starrzz last year and belies the mixed reviews surrounding some of the earlier shows in the tour. The show was carried off well, even with some vocal difficulties and the audience were clearly delighted and looking forward to more appearances scheduled for later in the year.


1. Never Enough
2. Damned Don’t Cry
3. Shameless Fashion
4. The Anvil
5. Hidden Sign
6. Pleasure Boys
7. Mind of a Toy
8. The Dancer
9. Dreamer I Know
10. Digital Age
11. Diary of a Madman
12. Fade to Grey
13. Visage


1980 Visage
1982 The Anvil
1984 Beat Boy
2013 Hearts and Knives