Howard Jones has been one of those performers I have always associated with the early-to-mid 1980’s. I recall some catchy songs, someone associated with the synth-pop revolution but someone I have not actually seen in concert nor consciously purchased any records. In recent decades I have only noticed him in the context as a notable vegan with a restaurant in New York called “Nowhere”. Although brought-up in Southampton, his parents are both Welsh, hence the familiar surname “Jones”. I attended this show purely out of interest and curious what this man was all about and with no expectations whatsoever. In my usual reviews, I am often very acquainted with the artist and their musical offerings. Not so in the case of Howard Jones though. Sometimes that can make it more exciting. However, in this review I will focus on the performance itself.
Unexpectedly, I noticed high numbers of male audience members attending this concert; typically, mid-50s to mid-60s; as evidenced by the extended toilet queues. Following a ‘shorter’ supporting first-half set from 1980s band China Crisis (of “Wishful Thinking” fame) who ironically Howard Jones supported back in the day, Mr Jones takes to the unassuming stage. Certainly, from a distance, you know that is it still Howard with evidence of that iconic elevated blonde hair. He is certainly looking well for 64 years of age – if that is what a vegan diet can do that’s is a very positive message. Sporting a rather classy, non-traditional white suite with trousers tucked into his often light-illuminated white trainers he takes to the baby grand piano.
This man plays piano incredibly well. His solo rendition of “Hide and Seek” is stunning. We are off to a great start Howard. Following this teaser, the wizard (as I like to refer to him) walks the stage. He is a natural communicator and presenter with the audience. He has a calming, reverential and approachable air about him. His iconic silhouette is a theme throughout the production along with his Madonna-esq attached microphone and raised arm pointing.
What followed next was a revelation – a stunning display of electronic sound light-fantastic! Just four guys including Howard in what is no less than a modern up-to-date show; the young, hip electronic drummer (apparently from Port Talbot) bounced up-and-down throughout. As the concert progresses you notice the depth of talent in each band member. It is apparent that Howard Jones has left the 1980s a long time ago. Many of his familiar songs might be decades old but here they have been brought back to life and are very much in vogue. In fact, I have never seen such a great visual extravaganza for some years. The arena sound was perfect – thanks sound engineers! The colours, lighting and effects constantly change during the event with innovative backdrops such as combining 1980s video footage of Howard seamlessly into the performance. In one song Jones was interacting with a pretty-tall and marvellous virtual male dancer. The audience responds with mesmerising praise.
Howard moved between front stage and band platform to work on his synth keyboards like a true pro. On many tracks, his voice was augmented with a vocoder effect. This can often be overused but in this context, it was most appropriate – especially as Howard’s image at least today is somewhat futuristic and high-tech. He continues to innovate.
You get all the tunes that one would expect on this 35th Anniversary Tour and more. “Things Can Only Get Better”, “What is Love?”, “Like To Get To Know You Well”, “New Song” and some incredible songs from his new album “Transform” such as “Take Us Higher”, “Beating Mr. Neg” and “Hero In Your Eyes” – the latter which is such an inspirational anthemic song. One should not forget the songwriting talent of this man.
So, will I see Howard Jones in concert again? Am I a new convert? Unequivocally yes and yes! This man is a true showman, a seriously talented musician and a wizard on the stage. His light show is simply enthralling, futuristic and out-of-this-world. You will most definitely be entertained – feeling energised and elated afterwards, singing the hits for days. I cannot stop listening to the new “Transform” album. Thank you Mr Jones and sorry that I am so later discovering you.