Saturday, March 07, 2015

Howard Jones only gets better, freshening '80s hits in Anaheim

My concert review of Howard Jones' performance at City National Grove of Anaheim originally ran on The Orange County Register site on Friday, March 6, 2015. I have also included a number of the photos I took at the performance with my review.

Howard Jones at City National Grove of Anaheim on March 5, 2015. Photo: Robert Kinsler

Howard Jones

Where: City National Grove of Anaheim
When: March 5, 2015

It would be easy for Howard Jones to simply come to town and perform a concert packed with his greatest hits. Thankfully the famed English singer-songwriter-keyboardist had much more in mind when he took the stage at the City National Grove of Anaheim on Thursday night (March 5, 2015).
To be clear, his fast-moving, 90-minute set was loaded with classics that helped make the Englishman one of the outstanding figures of the 1980s synth-pop explosion. But his masterful talents as singer and musician, combined with his enthusiastic approach to connecting with the audience, proved that this night far outdistanced any mere trip down memory lane.
The reworked arrangements featured at the Grove kept the melodic and emotional components of his best-known gems intact while giving them a contemporary feel. Indeed, interest in synth and electronica music has provided a renewed appreciation of groundbreaking ‘80s acts including Jones, Thomas Dolby, Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode.
“Like to Get to Know You Well,” with Jones prowling the stage playing his small Korg keyboard amid a driving beat, was an early highlight. Unlike many of his contemporaries who are challenged to hit the high notes they sang three decades ago, the 60-year-old Jones had no trouble. His falsetto voice and keyboard skills unleashed while moving around the big stage during that song helped set the pace for a show that only got better.
“Everlasting Love” (with its wistful intro and more driving techno finish), “Joy” (an intoxicating cut off his new project “Engage”) and “Life in One Day” (offered up with an electronica power that showcased Jones’ two-man backing band) were other early favorites. “No One Is to Blame” offered an early chance for the discerning audience to participate, especially when Jones asked, “Will you sing this with me?”
More standouts kept coming; “New Song” provided the perfect track to end his regular set, with his encore providing both quiet and uptempo selections. The jazzy “Don’t Always Look at the Rain” found Jones performing seated at a piano, sans his backing musicians. Before performing his 1984 hit “Hide and Seek,” he recalled the thrill of performing it as part of the Live Aid benefit at Wembley Stadium in 1985 and getting to ride in a helicopter with the members of Queen.
Jones closed out his concert with an extended “Things Can Only Get Better,” which included a mostly faithful opening before the song grew in power for an extended sing-along bolstered by a powerful electronica ending that notched up the celebration even higher.

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