I was a punk fan. I was also a music fan. As punk splintered into New Wave, which in turn spawned the New Romantic movement, Spandau Ballet stood out alongside Duran Duran. They were cool, they looked different, borrowing the make-up and androgynous mores of Glam and Bowie. They also had some good, strong, danceable songs. On a Mother’s Day Sunday evening, I was not the only one to treat a mum to an evening with her eighties heartthrob ( Martin, not me, obviously).
The cool, hip, phase was quite fleeting, no more than the first two albums, but it was enough to establish them before they found a commercial pop groove which defined their success. Tony Hadley was the voice of the band, Gary Kemp the song smith. As his brother Martin talked about his career he admitted to not being the best bass player, but instead wanting to be in the band, for which the only available place was bass player. It characterised his self- effacing style. What was apparent as the evening wore on was his clear vision for, and understanding of, success.
Puling around 300 people simply to hear you talk at £25 a head is a measure of that success. Martin walked onto the set of “Two”, a bar, to be interview by a local DJ, but we could easily have been in the bar at the Queen Vic. Relaxed, assured and confident. He commanded the stage from the start to take us on a trip down memory lane. His childhood, the Spandau years, and East Enders was familiar territory, but his anecdotes about the making of the Krays film, then his personal battles with brain tumours ratcheted up the content from the routine to the extraordinary.
Inevitably the first half of around three quarters of an hour was scripted and prepared, and not the worse for that. The second half was questions from the audience, a format that can go wrong if the performer is not fleet of foot, and if the questions clunk and grate. Fortunately neither eventuality was realised. Apart from the selfie and hug requests from the predominantly female audience, the questions were interesting, the response direct and full. We did squeeze out of him that a replacement vocalist for Spandau had been identified, but not yet announced.
Despite the bitter internal feuding and court case on song writing royalties, which Gary won, Martin was surprisingly generous towards the other band members including Hadley. No-one present could not help but be won over by his easy manner, and fluid stories. The two hours, including interval flew by. A show with no frills, props or music could have left him exposed, instead it revealed a genuinely engaging man, with some good tales to tell.
There was so much more I would have liked to have heard about his friendship with George Michael, and there was zero title tattle from East Enders, nor was there any explanation as to the rapprochement between Gary and the other band members bar Tony Hadley such that they were able to tour again together ( I suspect a probable seven figure pay cheque helped). Yet therein lies Martins skill, discrete, yet open, warm, but not naïve. An evening I can recommend for all music fans , East Enders fans and Krays fans.