Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Thompson Twins Head Back Out Into the Gap

“This is the second Into the Gap tour!” announced the host at the start of the show. “The first one was in 1984!”

The Thompson Twins were huge in the early to mid 1980s, riding the electro-synth-pop wave with the best known line-up of Tom Bailey, Joe Leeway and Alannah Currie resulting from many changes over the preceding years. 

Although they recorded studio albums into the mid 1990s, they never quite recaptured the lighting in a bottle of their early days and so Tom Bailey returns to the stage this year to play the ‘Into the Gap album through in its entirety to mark its 40th anniversary. Whilst it was the Twins’ fourth studio album, it was their most popular, reaching the number one slot in the UK albums chart in February 1984.

Support in Birmingham came from Martin McAloon of Prefab Sprout fame - another genre-defining band from the same era as the Twins who have been quiet of late because of lead Paddy McAloon’s health. What Martin may be very slightly lacking in the breathtaking musical dexterity of brother Paddy, he more than makes up for in commitment, warmth and authenticity. With Paddy unlikely to tour again, Martin is preserving the national treasures that are Prefab Sprout songs. On other tour dates, support comes from evergreen China Crisis and synth pioneers The Art of Noise.

The full house at Birmingham’s Town Hall were overcome with excitement, such is the appeal of songs such as ‘In the Name of Love’, ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Lay Your Hands’ which set the scene for the main course which was preceded by a lone cover version, perhaps revealing Bailey’s musical influences - Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’.

With a three piece all female band comprising Alice Offley (bass guitar and backing vocals), Charlotte Raven (keyboards and cello) and Paulina Szczepaniak (drums and percussion) joining Bailey in all-white outfits and sunglasses, the quartet added visual style to the slick musical presentation, Bailey alternating between vocals, guitar, keyboard and percussion to showcase his musical talents and add a theatrical flair to the evening’s performance.

Everyone was off their seats for the whole show, dancing at the front spilling into the aisles amidst much clapping and pointing in the air. With the album tracks played in a different order to the studio recording, the audience sang the lyrics to the concluding song ‘Hold Me Now’ whilst Bailey looked on in obvious joy from the stage. Although the song never quite hit the top chart spot, it’s such an iconic song that it has attracted a number of cover versions and an appearance in the movie The Wedding Singer. It was a strongly emotional end to a terrific celebration of the album’s ruby anniversary but since the house lights failed to return, the audience knew there was more to come. After a pause so brief that it was hardly worthwhile, the Twins thrilled the audience with three more hits, ‘We Are Detectives’, ‘Storm on the Sea’ and ending with ‘Love on Your Side’, the song which was the catalyst for the Twins’ early 80s chart success.

The tour continues across the UK and US throughout the summer in addition to festivals and support appearances.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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