It may be true that Erasure hasn’t had a hit single to speak of in 10 years, and its real heyday was more than two decades ago. But it would be inaccurate to call the British synth-pop duo a nostalgia act.
After all, Erasure is kicking off its 58-date “Violet Flame” tour in support of its 16th studio album, which will hit the streets Sept. 23. And judging from the joyous response Friday night from a packed house at the Fillmore Miami Beach, the tandem of singer Andy Bell and producer Vince Clarke is as popular as ever.
Being the first stop on a tour, the concert wasn’t without its minor hiccups, including some early microphone feedback problems, some off-key harmonizing on a few songs, and a botched lyrical exchange late in the show during one of Erasure’s most beloved hits, “Chains of Love” (which was otherwise exhilarating). But this night was all about unity and celebration, and the glitches simply didn’t matter.
When the lights went down and Bell appeared in a glittery tux with tails and a top hat to the opening strains of the euphoric “Oh L’Amour,” the Fillmore was immediately transformed into a massive dance party, the crowd literally hopping with energy and singing along. Perhaps feeding off that juice, Bell, flanked by two female backup singer/dancers, shimmied around the stage quite well for a 50-year-old man who has had two hip replacements.
The crackling vibe continued with “Star,” powered by a clubby, tribal-beat intro that recalled the intense rhythmic drive of Underworld, followed by “Reason,” the first song of the night from the new album, during which Bell showed off his strong falsetto on the chorus. (The band would perform two more tracks from “The Violet Flame” – “Sacred” and the single, “Elevation” – and both were well-received.)
Clarke, the other face of Erasure, was mostly reserved behind his keyboard, churning out bouncy, effervescent synth riffs balanced by the perfect amount of subtle darkness that kept the sound on the right side of cutting-edge. The stage production was sparse, consisting of a few floodlights flashing around, some other lights that resembled giant neon cufflinks, and not much else.
This was front man Bell’s spotlight, and he happily seized it, sashaying around the stage, gesturing wildly, posing for the crowd, and eventually stripping down to sequined hot pants that left little to the imagination, and drew deafening cheers.
If there was a three- or four-song comparative lull 30 minutes into the show, the explosion of energy that greeted the opening chords to Erasure’s signature song, “A Little Respect,” quickly obliterated it from memory. The audience sang along so loudly that it nearly drowned out the band, turning the room into a massive (G-rated) love fest.
Before its inspirational two-song encore of “Always” and “Sometimes,” Erasure shrewdly closed out the “regular” show with a five-song blast of upbeat favorites that sounded remixed for a nightclub, with the trance-y “Blue Savannah,” the driving dance anthem “Chorus,” and the sing-along trio of “Love to Hate You,” “Victim of Love” and “Chains of Love.” Which proves that The Beatles were right – all you need is love.