Synth Pop News: Soft Cell Live Berlin Tempodrom 22.04.2023 (2023)Concert report of Soft Cell's (last) tour live in Berlin Tempodrom on 22.04.2023. What has been played and how was the mood? Find out here.
Concert report of Soft Cell's (last) tour live in Berlin Tempodrom on 22.04.2023. What has been played and how was the mood? Find out here.
It's been 20 years since Soft Cell last played in Germany. The band's history has always been tumultuous, to put it mildly. Fallouts and reunions, announcements of last shows and drama.
Hey, if it involves Marc Almond and Dave Ball we wouldn't have it any other way!
Their latest album, 'Happiness not included' seemingly came out of nowhere and, less surprisingly a UK tour followed towards the end of last year. Then, in early 2023, two German dates were announced: Bochum and Berlin. Then Bochum was cancelled without much of an explanation but luckily the Berlin show went ahead.
On the night of the show, I arrived at the venue fairly early. A friend and I had treated ourselves to early access tickets and wanted to make sure that we ended up in the first row. We were allowed in half an hour before the official entry, but then we're left standing in front of closed doors for more than 20 minutes. Still, now complaints, as we made it into the first row without a problem. Then all we had to do was wait. A strange mix of 60s strip music and what sounded like B‑Movie soundtracks was played. It kind of fitted. Soft Cell have always been somewhat sleazy after all.
The show started shorty after 8 o'clock with the unmistakable saxophon solo of 'Torch'. Aided by three backing singers – Louise Marshall, Simon King and Bryan Chambers -, the song sounded as compelling as it did in the 80s. Almond even added the spoken bit that made the 12" of that song so special. Not surprisingly, the crowds reaction was noisy and enthusiastic.
Almond was dressed in black, but rather casually so, the former black eyeliner replaced by aviator style sunglasses. But where was Dave Ball? Apparently he could not be there due to health complications but I doubt that any but the most dedicated fans noticed Dave's absence as it was not addressed. Dave's keyboard assistance and co-producer Phillip Larson took over and did a fantastic job.
Even though the show was billed to celebrate 40 years of Soft Cell's debut album 'Non-stop Erotic Cabaret', it was made clear that Soft Cell is not (just) a nostalgia act, as the band launched into a sequence of new(er) songs: 'Bruises on all my illusions', 'Monoculture' and 'Happy, Happy Happy'.
The sound was excellent, Almond was in good voice and was visibly enjoying himself on stage. A backdrop of changing projection gave each songs its own look and atmosphere.
Highlights of the first half for me were 'Purple Zone', another song from the new album, which Pet Shop Boys remixed and turned into a duet. Here, we were of course treated to the original Soft Cell version of the song, which is less high engery disco and more meloncholy and gloom.
The two last songs before the interval – 'The Art of Falling Apart' and 'Martin' really captured the frantic, self-destructive vibe of the later Soft Cell releases. A nervous breakdown put on vinyl and a tale about a psychotic teenager murderer who believes he is a vampire were dark, mesmerizing and had the fans go crazy.
The second half kept the promise of a 'Non-stop Erotic Cabaret' celebration. The album was played in its entirety. Trips down the seedy side streets of London's Soho, its strip clubs and after-hour bars. Tales about the absurdity of every day life, sex, the nightlife and its casts of strange characters painted a picture of a different type of 80s, which involved more gutter than glamour.
'Sex Dwarf' was the first highlight of the set. The disco dollies might not be as young as they used to be but they were surly enjoying themselves that night. Tons of screams proved that beyond a doubt.
'Bedsitter' was another highlight for me. Again, the extended mix was used, which includes a spoken mid-section. "Do you look a mess, so you have a hang-over?…"
Of course there is no Soft Cell concert without 'Tainted Love'. Here the song made an appearance twice, once as the album track and secondly in the form of the extened version which blends into 'Where Has Our Love Gone?'.
The last song of the evening was 'Memorabila', which might or might not have been the first Techno song ever recorded. The energy was still there and left many wanting more.
These days Soft Cell are no longer that raw, rough-around-the-edges duo they were when they started. Almond's voice is smoother and more polished, there are less shouts and growls and the music has lost some of its punk rock roughness but that not a bad thing. Old and new songs blended together rather well and in my opinion remain true to the essence of Soft Cell. It's pop music after all. If it's done right, it takes you out of your dull daily life and catapults you somewhere else. Soft Cell are still able to do that and it makes for excellent entertainment.
- Bruises On All My Illusions
- Happy Happy Happy
- Where the Heart Is
- Purple Zone
- Nostaligia Machine
- Loving You, Hating Me
- The Art of Falling Apart
- Tainted Love
- Seedy Films
- Sex Dwarf
- Entertain Me
- Chips On My Shoulder
- Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
- Tainted Love /Where Did Our Love Go?