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Calling Planet Earth. Embassy Theatre, Skegness 11 March 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

Calling Planet Earth

The Embassy Theatre, Skegness

Friday 11 March 2022

This show has been on the touring circuit for about six months but is building a huge following as they tour te UK sharing their love of 1980s syth pop, specifically the New Romantic stuff beloved of bands like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran from whom they take the show’s title. Planet Earth was the debut single for the band in February 1982 and magazines such as The Face were bringing the unfeasibly good-looking, yet gender-bending acts to our attention, a generation of peacocks known as Blitz Kids, after the club in London. The style became known as New Romantic and introduced the world to many, many. To some some of us, it feels like yesterday. To others, they see it as over 40 years ago. At the time, I was serving my time as a music reviewer at Brunel University and saw many bands featured tonight. I saw one of Tears For Fears’ earliest gigs. They played their set with a tape machine rolling and had to rewind the tape to perform an encore. I got to spend a night dancing with Kim Wilde and chatting to the late Paula Yates. I even endured the dreaded KajaGooGoo. SO, I know what this band are doing and can compare their work with that of the originals.

How do they compare? REALLY, really well. They brought an infectious energy to the Embassy in Skegness that was apparent from the outset. A simple line-up of two keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, along with a female sax playing, percussionist who also delivered some blinding vocals and two male vocalists who each brought soaring vocals and a passion for the music performed. A faultless demonstration of musical ability inspired by Artistic Director and frontman Michael King and led by MD and bass player, Clayton Stocker. The band is tight and drives the sound as three projection screens give the whole show a sense of 80s Top of the Pops with videos of the original artists peppered throughout each song to good effect.

The show opened to the strains of Gary Numan’s riff from Cars and transitioned into the best-known hit by Visage and the incredibly influential DJ Steve Strange, Fade To Grey. The three vocalists entered and proceeded to win over the audience almost instantaneously. Within seconds the audience was on its feet looking to dance and to sing or clap along with the tunes of their youth. And the performers knew that they were ready to lead a party in Skegness on a Friday night.

Michael King demonstrated his love for Spandau Ballet very early on and took the lead on each of their numbers. To Cut A Long Story Short showed that he possesses a voice which is more than equal to the task, and he handled Gold, Through the Barricades and True really well during the course of the evening. His passion for the era shone through. Clearly a lover of the genre, King gave faithful renditions of work by Human League and Japan too as hit after hit rang out. The snake-hipped, master of ceremonies for the show, led the ensemble well but ensured it wasn’t an ego trip for hm by giving centre stage to the other performers too.

Duran Duran numbers were generally handled by fellow frontman, Jason Ashton. He loves what he does, and it shines through his entire performance. As well as performing Planet Earth, Girls on Film and Rio, Ashton delivered belting performances of two of Ultravox’s greatest hits Dancing With Tears in My Eyes and, of course, Vienna. His performance of Vienna was a controlled, emotive cry from the heart and left the audience hanging on every note. It was a pleasure to see and hear it performed so well. He also led their version of Stephen Tin Tin Duffy's Kiss Me (With Your Mouth) to a surpisingly enthusiastic reception. Not a song I remember with any great affection previously!

The hits kept coming and eventually, it was the turn of multi-instrumentalist Lindsay Goodhand. Bedecked in a skintight body suit, Goodhand cut a noticeable figure on stage that was impossible to miss. She is a consummate performer and easily the most visible musician in a band referring to lurk in the shadows leaving the forestage to the leads. Performer. I really enjoyed her performance of Yazoo’s hit, Don’t Go, Alison Moyet is a hard act to follow as a vocalist, but Goodhand did really well. For the most part though, she performed the role that Steve Norman thanklessly performed in Spandau Ballet as percussionist and sax player, without the understated performance of Norman, Spandau would have sounded very different and the same is true for Lindsay Goodhand, she brings talent in spades to the sound of Calling Planet Earth.

The driving power behind the band is completed by guitarist, Mark Warren, keyboards Dave Woodfield and Jules Benjamin, and drums, Dave Manning. They keep things moving at an astonishing pace and never drop a note.

My personal highlight was the finale to the first half as they performed Through the Barricades. The arrangement was note-perfect, and King’s vocals totally suited the emotional ballad. The song tells the story of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and was inspired by the death of Thomas Reilly (a young man who had worked for Spandau Ballet) in Belfast , Tony Hadley regards it as the band’s greatest song. Here, it took on a new meaning as the lights changed to blue and yellow beams. The rear projection screens showed the Ukranian flag. The audience rose as one to cheer and applaud the gesture. The show didn’t milk it, they just left the flag showing as the song continued and the band left the stage without further reference. It was a simple gesture and a moment of unity I had not expected, and I salute it.

Overall, this show was one giant 80s inspired party, a celebration of a musical era many regard as one of the finest ever. There were certainly some stand-out tunes that have stood the test of time. I cannot recommend this show highly enough to lovers of the music. If you want a REALLY good time, grab a few mates, pop on some guyliner and prepare to dance the night away to Calling Planet Earth touring the UK and hopefully coming to another venue near you very soon.

Andy Evans 12 March 2022

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