Tony Hadley: ‘I’m really glad we rekindled our friendships’

Spandau Ballet
Spandau Ballet
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They were a band who had it all – the chart success, the fame and everything that went with it during their ’80s heyday. Huge hits like True, Gold and Through The Barricades became, and remain, radio staples.

But by the end of the decade, cracks had grown between the members and the band unravelled in 1990.

However, it didn’t end there as years of bitter legal fighting followed where Tony Hadley, Steve Norman and John Keeble attempted, but failed, to sue Gary Kemp for a share of the songwriting royalties.

As a result, many were left stunned when the original line-up, completed by Gary’s brother Martin, announced their return in 2009.

‘I t took me five years to agree to do something with the rest of the boys,’ explains Tony to The Guide. ‘It was a pretty soul-searching period really.

‘I do well on my own, do I really want to go into this again? But actually it’s turned out really nice again. We’ll be touring until the end of September/October, and we might do a couple of things next year, but then we’ll all go off and do our separate things.

I think we’re playing better now, even better than five years ago. There’s a sort of relaxed feel in the band, which I don’t think we’ve had since we were kids

Tony Hadley, lead singer of Spandau Ballet

‘It’s been good though, I think there’s been a healthy respect for each other.’

Now the band are coming to the city to play at Portsmouth Live! as part of the celebrations around the America’s Cup World Series, topping a bill that also includes McBusted, Wet Wet Wet and Carly Rae Jepsen.

When The Guide speaks to Tony, it’s shortly after his 55th birthday and he’s in a reflective mood: ‘How do you hit 55? It’s like wow, it’s kind of strange. In a jot you’re 55, but in your head you’re thinking ‘‘I’m still 25, hang on!’’’

And he seems surprised by how quickly the time has gone.

‘It’s ridiculous – we formed in 1976 in the school music room, so we’re one away from 40 years – professionally, it’s 35 – but you start thinking of someone like The Stones, and they must have been together for 60 years now.’

Admittedly there was a lengthy period in the middle where they weren’t together, but the band seem reinvigorated in their 21st century guise. Among those first post-reformation shows was a headline spot at The Isle of Wight Festival.

‘We didn’t do festivals in the day,’ he recalls, ‘because they didn’t really exist at the same level. There were rock festivals, but there weren’t really pop festivals, big open air things, as they are today.’

And he admits to nerves before the festival gig: ‘I remembering thinking there’s going to be tens of thousands of people, but they’re going to be quite young – are they going to know who we are?

‘We’re still perfectly confident in our ability to play and put on a great show, but you think, will they know the songs?

‘And they did, they sang along and cheered.

‘The bit at the end when I went out on the ramp and everyone was singing Gold, the response was phenomenal. It was a great feeling.’

Another factor Hadley thinks has been in their favour is that it is still the same line-up that got together as school friends in London.

‘I think we’re one of the few bands who’ve not had a line-up change. We’re very lucky that we’re all still here and able to do this.

‘I think we’re playing better now, even better than five years ago. There’s a sort of relaxed feel in the band, which I don’t think we’ve had since we were kids really, that easy feeling. It’s good, it’s a vibe.

‘I just think that there was a realisation within the band that it’s these five people make up Spandau Ballet, it works because it’s Martin, John, Steve and Gary and myself. That’s the combination, that’s what works.’

Last year, a feature-length documentary focusing on the band, Soul Boys of The Western World, was released which was at times painful viewing for the band,

‘It was lovely to see the old footage, and see some of the people who are no longer with us, friends and family members, but I’ve seen it three times and I don’t want to see it again.

‘You see the fun times and you think how did it get from point A to point B? And it’s the same in all relationships. It starts off and you’re all in love, hey, we’re skipping through fields of daisies, and then we were ripping up the fields of daises and killing each other. It was very difficult.

‘You could see quite a long time before we actually finally split the slow fractures that were appearing in the band.

‘We actually did a tour on that album – Heart Like A Sky. It was a bloody awful album and I said I can’t do this any more.

‘It got to the point where I’m not enjoying it any more, that’s the end of that, time to move on. But I am really glad that we’ve rekindled our friendships.

‘It seems that having outside interests has been key to keeping the band happy this time around, but looking to the future, that brings its own problems.

‘I’ve got the Tony Hadley Band, who’re a great bunch of mates, we work together really well, I can jump between the two and it’s good fun.

‘It takes a lot of time for Spandau to organise things because we’ve all got our own individual things we run off and do. I’m already booked up for summer festivals for next year – which is great, it’s great to be in demand, but with Spandau it takes even longer.’

And as for those outlandish New Romantic fashions?

‘A lot of younger people have seen the film and said: “Wow, why isn’t it like that today?” It was an exciting period, the whole Blitz kids, New Romantic thing was really just a punk run-off, but an elaborate, dandyish version.’

Spandau Ballet headline Portsmouth Live! at the Waterfront Festival Arena in Southsea on Saturday, July 25. Tickets £48.50 for adults, £16.50 for children under 16. Go to ticketmaster.co.uk