It was vital to witness Soft Cell on their five night tour commemorating forty years of the outstanding album, Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. I jittered in-between my parents at the anticipation of Dave Ball and Marc Almond, waiting in my Computer World t-shirt for a performance that would stir much excitement for their Spring 2022 album, *Happiness Not Included.
The room scuttled with all kinds of wonderfully strange people, but not everyone had found their seat yet at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith and the saxophone was already beckoning. Marc emerged from a shadow and into a pink spotlight, gripping the mic stand, calming the chaos. He reached out to us, delivering ‘Torch’, clad in black and wearing shades. Dare we look into his eyes! As quick as everyone seated themselves, we were standing again, shouting, ‘Hold Me Hold Me Hold Me Hold Me Hold Me!’ No warm up needed for the energy of this crowd.
Dave sat powerfully at his podium of electronic kit, holding down the pounding beat of ‘Bruises On My Illusions’, one of their new singles that boasts the classic storytelling beauty of Soft Cell’s lyrics. We were teased by unreleased operatic sci-fi tales of dystopian existence and nostalgia. It was a surprise that we weren’t all slumped in our seats in a depression, but Dave was head deep in those drum machines, keeping us bouncing. Marc took a seat for ‘Heart Like Chernobyl’, performing as if talking to a lover across a bedroom, sharing the demons in his mind. I adore that song.
The slow groove of ‘Where The Heart Is’ exploded into the gentle chorus. We jumped with contrastingly forceful fists into the air. This touched Marc as he glanced back to Dave who looked up and smiled. Soft Cell are punk alive and well, manifested in the strong waving hands of the mostly middle-aged. More of the old hits brought the theatrical, danceable drama, releasing Marc to undo the cuffs of his shirt and spin into a turbulent vision of flailing black cloth, disappearing offstage with only his shades to be seen drowning in the murky blue.
Nothing could prepare us for the second act. The curtain rose with the yelling of ‘Frustration’. Non Stop Erotic Cabaret had begun. I was chuffed to hear all these brilliant quirky songs that we all moved in our space to. The screaming of ‘Sex Dwarf’. The compulsory sing along to ‘Tainted Love’. The seductive tales of youth and seedy nightlife told by the snaking flute and morphing synths. The sound seemed to seep out of the ceiling and intoxicate us. Erratic scenes colourfully played out on the screens behind. The effect was trance-like and the zig-zagging visuals perfectly accompanied the music. ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ brought a true climax of absolute joy. That square tone synth rose and fell like some crazy piston on a sugar rush. Who knows when we will get the opportunity to witness these songs again?
It feels important to note the lasting elegance and strength of Marc’s voice as it became time to ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ to the pretty pink flamingos flashing behind. A different kind of atmosphere diffused across the room like perfume as we formed one big solemn choir. Our voice sang louder than Marc’s. We reached out to him with open palms and hearts. He surrendered the chorus to us, standing like a flower, arms stretching out to display his beauty, soaking up our energy. He ripped off his glasses and flung both arms wide just as the most melancholic chords struck, like some grand finale of a tragic play in which the protagonist loses everything, yet gains all. A truly wonderful moment that I will forever relive.
Soft Cell’s new music gives us something to be ever-curious about. They must be so satisfied to know they are still producing works of interest for listeners and that Non Stop Erotic Cabaret is embraced with immortal excitement. What a fantastic gig. Soft Cell will always hold a very special place in many people’s hearts.