When Howard Jones took the stage at The Gov, half an hour before his advertised start time, most of the steadily growing crowd were still queuing for drinks at the bar, and, as the volume of his synth pop initially struggled for dominance over the social bar chat of the crowd, it seemed like the evening maybe be a bit of a misfire.
Within the first two songs, however, it became obvious that this crowd were actually big fans of the Jones musical canon, and the chatter soon transformed into a tremendously enthusiastic communal singalong.
Whilst neither the clarity or volume of Jones’ voice were his strongest points on the night, his engaging stage patter and the occasional bursts of enthusiastic, uninhibited keyboard kept the punters happy as they roared out his catchy pop choruses.
The most rapturous responses were given to 80’s pop radio staples such as Like To Get To Know You Well, No One Is To Blame, Life In One Day, What Is Love, Things Can Only Get Better and his final offering, his debut hit, New Song.
The crowd were also generous in their reaction to a smattering of newer songs and not so familiar album tracks, as well as appreciating a solo keyboard rendition of Look Mama that he played whilst his band’s computers needed re-booting. Before launching into this, he acknowledged that it had been the The Upside News who had reminded him of the song’s popularity here in Adelaide!
As Jones left the stage it was obvious that he had primed the crowd perfectly for what was to come, and as they waited for the changeover of acts they continued to singalong to the PA booming out eighties classics such as the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me.
Kim Wilde, borrowing Howard Jones’ keyboardist and drummer and bringing her own guitarists, including her hit-writing brother, Ricky Wilde, launched into high octane versions of Chequered Love, View From A Bridge, Water On Glass and Cambodia and the crowd’s excitement – and vocal involvement – reached new heights. The surprise was how much more rock oriented the versions of these songs were in comparison to the slick pop sheen of the originals, and how much better they sounded in these incarnations.
Wilde’s voice was steady all night but she wisely had her niece, Scarlett Wilde, singing backing vocals to give those moments in her hits where she was required to reach the higher range greater strength and power.
The band were in great spirits all night. Their camaraderie and by-play were engaging and seemed fuelled by the love they were feeling from the audience. Scarlett’s sassy flirtatiousness as she prowled the stage behind Kim suggests another Wilde may be preparing herself for a shot at a solo career, such was her assuredness in controlling her place on the stage.
The set included some covers of other artists’ hits such as Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You, and Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – no doubt an unstated tribute to the recently departed Pete Burns – which fed the crowd’s insatiable appetite for all things pop.
Later in the set, You Came and You Keep Me Hangin’ On set new record levels for middle-age bopping intensity, only to have the bar broken by the delirious reception that was given to her signature tune, Kids In America.
As a final treat, Kim invited Howard Jones back on stage, and to a backing tape of the Beach Boys session recording of God Only Knows, the two eighties hitmakers paid homage to those who forged the classic pop path that went before them. Ricky and Scarlett provided the counter harmonies, and the performance capped off a winning night.
The band left the stage to an ovation akin to a Wembley roar, and even the most cynical punter would have been forced to agree that the quality of entertainment delivered on the night was undeniable.
Those who have a ticket for the duo’s sold out show this Saturday night are in for a real treat as, for just a few hours, they can return to the simple joys of the adolescence that they have never quite managed to leave behind.
Reviewed by Ken Grady
Howard Jones & Kim Wilde play another sold out gig at The Gov this Saturday, 12 November.