Show Review: Howard Jones at The Mezzanine, 7/12/2012

by Gordon Elgart on July 18, 2012

Nostalgia about the ’80s is a weird thing. For some reason, the “kids” of today will talk endlessly about going to see Modern English at Cafe Du Nord, hoping they’ll play both “I Melt With You” and “I Melt With You ’88.” They’ll go see endless cover bands of their new wave heroes.  But the modern story of this decade always seems to forget one of the singular songwriting talents, someone with several hits up his sleeves, someone whose “one person and a synthesizer” sound was once revolutionary and is now common. That someone is Howard Jones.

For this tour, Howard Jones announced he’d be playing the entirety of his first two albums, 1984’s utter classic Human’s Lib and 1986’s hit-packed Dream Into Action. I steeled myself for these shows, for as much as I love this albums, I dislike “play the album” shows because there’s no surprise to be had. But no! Mr. Jones did surprise, as he played these albums out of order. The first set did not start with track one, but rather a deep cut. The hits were thrown to the end of the set, giving us time to settle in before asking us all to sing along.

The Dream Into Action set had one surprise left: would it be the long version of the album that includes “Like to Get to Know You Well” or the short version? As soon as he began “Bounce Right Back,” the other CD-version exclusive from back in the day, I knew the long set was in store for us. This album is a bit top heavy, and I spent much of this set just waiting for the hits to drop, and when they finally did, and we all song “No One Is to Blame” together, I was in teenage heaven again. How could I have waited this long to see him?

A rousing “Things Can Only Get Better” followed a story about his troubles getting a visa for this trip. Upon being denied one, he was told “don’t call senators,” so he called senators. Orrin Hatch’s office got him in touch with Hilary Clinton’s office, and because of that, he was here.

After a 30-minute intermission, Howard Jones came back with a new outfit to play the shorter, less poppy Human’s Lib. From the pounding beginnings of “Conditioning,” this set felt different. It was more forceful, but at times prettier. Mr. Jones gave a short talk regarding the lyrics of “Human’s Lib,” especially the line about “hit some people into feeling good,” by explaining his punk beginnings. The show seemed to go really fast from this point, as the whole record runs less than 40 minutes, and the entire thing wasn’t even played during the main set, ending with “What Is Love?” And for the encore, we finally got the answer to a question we’d been asking all night, “When is he going to play that keytar?” And during a giant singalong of “New Song,” we had our answer.

A woman standing nearby explained that her 4-year old son was rolling on the floor in tears because this show was for a 21-and-up audience. And while I didn’t see many people that needed to be asked for IDs, I did feel a lot of vocal energy behind me. Compared to what I thought a Howard Jones concert would be in 2012 (sitting in some bleachers somewhere while everyone stood up only at the end), this sweaty, loud club show felt like a blast of energy. And I really think Howard Jones felt it himself, coming up to the front of the stage to shake hands whenever he could. For although the kids don’t really know Howard Jones, their parents do, and sometimes parents do know best.

Howard Jones setlist from The Mezzanine on July 12, 2012

Dream Into Action Overture
Automation
Why Look For the Key?
Is There a Difference?
Assault and Battery
Look Mama
Elegy
Specialty
Dream Into Action
Hunger For the Flesh
No One Is to Blame
Bounce Right Back
Life in One Day
I’d Like to Get to Know You Well
Things Can Only Get Better
-INTERMISSION-
Conditioning
Pearl in the Shell
Natural
Hunt the Self
Don’t Always Look at the Rain
Equality
Hide and Seek
Humans Lib
What Is Love?
-ENCORE-
New Song

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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