Soft Cell stopped on their “Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” 40th Anniversary Tour at Hammersmith Apollo where tickets for the shows were in high demand. Fans knew that they would play their highly acclaimed album, but were eager to hear songs from their upcoming album “Happiness Not Included” as well.
The audience for this type of event is usually on the older side, but these shows tend to bring out fountains of youth and euphoria in an otherwise more serene crowd. Although considered one of the best synth-pop acts due to controversial beginnings and obscure images, their audience is diverse: pop fans, goths, and anyone in between.
Without hesitation, Soft Cell went straight for one of their biggest hits, “Torch”, which instantly got everyone on their feet. Although Soft Cell is just Marc and Dave, four backing vocals and a saxophonist accompanied our favourite duo on this occasion. While Dave was surrounded by synths and hardly moved, Marc was flamboyant and spectacular as usual; he owned the stage. The overwhelmed audience were rushing towards him even when it meant the security had to intervene.
We could hear four tracks from the upcoming album during the first set, which piqued our interest; the ominous-sounding “Bruises On My Illusions” ranked high on my list. Although there were slower numbers like “Heart Like Chernobyl”, “Kitchen Sink Drama”, or “Where The Heart Is”, they played “Monoculture” and “Martin” for those who like their upbeat tempo songs. However, the boiling point was reached with “Art Of Falling Apart”, at which point the security couldn’t control the frenzied crowd anymore.
After a 30 minute intermission, the band returned to the stage to perform what most of us came to hear. “Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” is one of the best synth-pop albums to date, and we were there for it. I was wondering how it was going to sound live 40 years later, but the brilliance of their performance exceeded my expectations. The album was played in its entirety and album running order. From the first beats of “Frustration”, Soft Cell delivered the album with such ease, proficiency, and mastery that there was no doubt in my mind why Soft Cell remained such an iconic band to this day; their brilliance is authentic; their artistry unmatched.
At moments I couldn’t even believe that that immense energy was created by two musicians and not a six-piece band; their music was written and performed with great emotion and absolute precision. Marc’s vocal performance was seductive and mesmerising, gentle yet powerful; I am sure he would have pulled it off even without the help of the fantastic backing vocals. It seems that people never tire of hearing “Tainted Love”, the cover song which catapulted the band to stardom; Soft Cell made it their own, and it became a significant hit (who even remembers the original version?).
“Sex Dwarf” made everyone scream at the top of their lungs to a song about “a life of vice”. “Entertain Me” and “Chips On My Shoulder” created a clubbing atmosphere for a while and brought back memories of playing them as a DJ many moons ago. And just as predicted, they sounded even better live. With 40 years of distance, we can say that “Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret” really stood the test of time; elements of the human condition described in the songs are still present today as they were then.
I was left in awe with the rest of the crowd after “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”. The songs were accompanied by changing visuals which added to the experience; seeing the pink flamingos and Marc waving at us meant that the show had ended. Or so we thought. They saved two more songs for the encore: “Purple Zone” from “Happiness Not Included” and cleverly chosen “Memorabilia”; they made sure the night was memorable. And speaking of memorabilia, we left the venue with two Soft Cell t-shirts.
Act I: 1. Torch, 2. Bruises On My Illusions, 3. Happy Happy Happy, 4. Monoculture, 5. Heart Like Chernobyl, 6. Nostalgia Machine, 7. Kitchen Sink Drama, 8. Where The Heart Is, 9. Divided Soul, 10. L’Esqualita, 11. Martin, 12. The Art Of Falling Apart
Act II: 13. Frustration, 14. Tainted Love, 15. Seedy Films, 16. Youth, 17. Sex Dwarf, 18. Entertain Me, 19. Chips On My Shoulder, 20. Bedsitter, 21. Secret Life, 22. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
Encore: 23. Purple Zone, 24. Memorabilia