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BEFs unforgettable live debut

Those lucky enough to attend the Tribute To Billy Mackenzie Concert at the Shepherds Bush Empire were treated to several unexpected live treats last week that went way beyond most expectations.

Electro Goddess and former singer of one of the most influential electronic bands Propaganda brought the whole evening to life and the audience couldnt get enough of Claudia Brucken.

Together with ZTTs Andrew Poppy, Claudia performed a spine tingling version of Kate Bushs timeless 1985 hit ‘Running Up That Hill. Claudias voice is a rare and beautiful instrument and its as powerful now as it was on that defining Propaganda album ‘A Secret Wish back in 1985.

Classically trained musician Andrew Poppy provided a haunting and captivating new piano backing that blending so well with the dynamics of Claudias voice. Two songs from Claudia wouldnt have been enough and thankfully she remained on stage to be joined by OMD genius Paul Humphreys and together they performed as ‘One Two with a new thumping dance track which is good enough to make me rush out and snap up a copy of their new album.

Fittingly, every act that appeared at this unique event performed a track of their choice penned by Billy Mackenzie and he would have been delighted by Claudias version of the 1983 Associates track ‘Club Country.

As a huge Propaganda fan (and there were a few others around me), I cant begin to describe how I felt when One Two unexpectedly performed a stunning new version of the 1985 single ‘Duel. I never thought I would ever get to hear this track live and this new version had so much power behind it — expertly programmed by Paul and again, even as a fan, I was blown away by Claudias voice — a real electro dream.

I called a friend (who is currently working in Europe) during this song — one of his favourite albums of all time is ‘A Secret Wish and on his answer phone he will hear two full minutes of a track that is rarely performed live.

Could the night get any better you wonder? We all barely had time to catch our collective breath when BEF along with H17 vocalist Billie Godfrey took command of the Shepherds Bush stage.

This will surprise some but up until last night, I had never seen H17 live. I asked Martyn a few weeks back for details of what they would be playing and rather cunningly he listed a few instrumentals.

First up was a version of the track that Billy had covered on ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol. 2' perfectly sung by the extremely talented Billie whose voice is unbelievable live. Precision electro sequencing and complex drum patterns are Heaven 17 trademarks and tonight the sound mix was amazing.

Empire State Human Glenn (he must be about 7 feet tall) then took over the lead vocals to great applause to sing a cover of David Bowies ‘Drive In Saturday and this was followed by what Glenn revealed was Billys favourite H17 song (and quite possibly one of the finest 80s tracks) ‘Let Me Go and its a moment that I will remember for a very long time.

Another unexpected surprise was up next and some fans will cry at the thought of missing this — BEF performing the demo version of ‘Temptation with Claudia providing the spoken femme fatale lines from the demo whilst Billie took care of the soaring vocal arrangements from the final 1983 version.

This has to be a single!

It was an unbelievable moment and if anyone successfully recorded this version on the night then please contact me — my mp3 recorder failed me when I needed it most sadly.

The final track was a slow and poignant cover of ‘Party Fears Two — a fitting end to an astonishingly blinding live set and I never once bothered to ask anyone about the England match played that night…

Finally, I would like to give special mention to Electric Soft Parade who managed to win me over. My expectations prior to them coming on was shockingly low but they were very, very good and performed some great numbers.

(With warm thanks to BEF, Claudia, Paul and the other acts)