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Music & Concerts

Three decades of Erasure

Pop duo plans deluxe reissues of entire catalog



Erasure, gay news, Washington Blade
Erasure, gay news, Washington Blade

Erasure — Andy Bell, left and Vince Clarke — is one of the most consistently great pop acts of all time. (Photo by Phil Sharpe)

Synth-wizard Vince Clarke, a founding member of Depeche Mode, was an integral part of the band’s hit 1981 debut album “Speak and Spell.” He wrote hits like “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Dreaming of Me” for the band, which had an upbeat and peppy synth-pop sound very different than the darker and more melancholy vibe Depeche Mode would develop after Clarke’s departure.

He left after one album and formed a short-lived but successful collaboration with dynamic vocalist Alison Moyet. Yazoo (or Yaz in the U.S.) scored with hits like “Only You,” “Don’t Go” and “Situation” in the brief two-year period they were together. Moyet left to pursue a long and fruitful solo career, while Clarke was left to figure out his next move.

Seems like third time was the charm. Clarke, who’s straight, put out an ad in Melody Maker magazine for a new singer, and he was understandably impressed with the audition of a powerhouse vocalist named Andy Bell, who’s gay. The two soon formed Erasure and in 1986 emerged with their debut album “Wonderland.”

Three decades later, Erasure is still going strong, having amassed one of the most impressive and consistently entertaining catalogs in pop music history. They’re celebrating the 30-year mark with deluxe reissues of all their albums. Several are out now. Two more will arrive Aug. 19 and the final batch arrives Aug. 26. Details at A three-disc box set called “Always,” featuring a bevy of rareties, is also out.

They’ve scored dozens of hits in the U.K. and elsewhere, while in America they were able to breakthrough briefly with a taste of mainstream success in the ‘80s while mostly finding success in the dance clubs thanks in large part to their ever-enthusiastic gay fanbase. Bell has never been coy about his sexuality, which certainly made breaking Erasure on American airwaves a challenge at a time when almost nobody openly gay was hitting the U.S. Top 40.

It’s not easy to write a great pop song, yet Erasure has written dozens of them. Erasure’s music is so irresistibly catchy and memorable, it’s almost impossible not to be swept away by their infectious charm and kinetic electro-pop dynamism. Their debut “Wonderland” yielded a trio of early hits, including “Who Needs Love Like That,” which features a wonderfully campy video with the duo in drag. Their sound developed in maturity with their second album, 1987’s “The Circus” and singles like “Sometimes” and “Victim of Love.” It was their third album, the 1988 pop masterpiece “The Innocents,” that brought the duo the apex of their success. Two classic singles, “Chains of Love” and “A Little Respect,” became Top 20 hits in America and around the world. They remain popular — one way to get a roomful of gay men to sing along at the top of their lungs, trying (mostly in vain) to hit Bell’s high notes, is to blast “A Little Respect” at full volume. It’s arguably their finest moment.

More albums followed in rapid succession, every single one of them worthwhile. “Wild!” (1989) featured the ebullient “Blue Savannah,” and 1991’s “Chorus” scored international hits with the high-energy title track and the flamboyant disco-flavored “Love to Hate You.” In 1994 they returned to the American charts with the sublime ballad “Always” from “I Say, I Say, I Say,” which was followed by their more experimental and ambient 1995 self-titled album. Perhaps the most underrated album of their career, 1997’s “Cowboy” includes gems like “In My Arms,” “Rain” and “Reach Out.” The duo toured successfully in support of “Cowboy,” including a memorable show at American University in D.C.

Over the last 20 years, Erasure has continued to tour and release one solid album after another, the most recent being 2014’s “The Violet Flame.” The duo performed two electrifying nights at the 9:30 Club in support of the album, and it was very clear to the exuberant crowd that Erasure has lost none of their considerable firepower. Andy Bell remains one of the most charismatic and compelling vocalists in pop music and Clarke seems armed with a never ending supply of sonic invention.

With the reissues — all out on 180-gram vinyl — there’s never been a better time for long-time fans and those interested in delving deeper into their catalog. The quality and quantity of the duo’s work is staggering and sadly does not seem to receive the respect it deserves outside of the duo’s die-hard fan base. It’s time for that to change. Erasure’s enduring legacy and impressive body of work over three decades is the equal of anybody in the vast pop music universe, and indeed it is time for a little more respect to be thrown their way.


Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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Music & Concerts

Internationally acclaimed pianist to play at Strathmore

Brian Ganz to celebrate 12th annual concert



(Photo by Vitalii Petrushenko/Bigstock)

“An Evening of Chopin’s Chamber Music with Brian Ganz and Friends” will be on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Pianist Brian Ganz will celebrate his 12th annual concert in his quest to perform the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. He will be joined by Carter Brey, principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic, and Laura Colgate, concertmaster for the National Philharmonic. The artists will perform all the major chamber music works written by Chopin, including the rarely heard Trio in G minor for piano, violin and cello, Op. 8, as well as the famed Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor.

Ticket prices start at $29 and free for young people 7–17.  For more details, visit

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Music & Concerts

Boston Gay Men’s Chorus builds bridges in new documentary

‘Music Triumphs Homophobia’ chronicles group’s travels around the world



Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (Photo by A Priori Photography)

Poland, Turkey, and South Africa are among the places the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has traveled, facing discrimination, but also finding acceptance and camaraderie on the road. 

“Music Triumphs Homophobia,” a new documentary available on Amazon Prime Video written and directed by filmmakers Craig Coogan and Michael Willer, follows the Chorus’s tours around the world and grapples with how spiritual LGBTQ people contend with the homophobic mistranslations of religious texts. It also explores the power of music. 

“Our goal is to share … the joy and inspiration that music can have in overcoming prejudice,” Coogan, the former executive director of the chorus, said in an interview. “What BGMC has done for 40 years, and other choruses have done as well, is infusing the world with joy, inspiration, and hope.”

And it’s not just Christianity that misinterprets religious doctrines, Coogan said. 

“It wasn’t just Christian, and it wasn’t Muslim. It wasn’t Jewish. It wasn’t one particular denomination. It actually was overall,” Coogan said. 

The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus was founded in 1982 and is comprised of more than 200 performers, from all different backgrounds. This diversity of perspective is what drives the mission of the chorus and the documentary, Coogan said.  

“The universality of coming together as one voice, to tell one story, is incredibly powerful. And I think that’s what audiences identify with,” Coogan said.  

Because the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus had to go on hiatus from performing at the onset and height of the pandemic, Coogan and Willer sought out a solution — to put together a documentary chronicling the history and work of the group.  

The pair already had most of the footage before putting together a full, nearly two-hour documentary was a reality for them. For years, people at the chorus, including Coogan and Willer, had captured the various trips for the archives. 

“This actually afforded us a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in 30 terabytes of footage,” Willer said. 

Michael Willer is one of two filmmakers behind the new documentary. (Photo courtesy BGMC)

Coogan and Willer put together the footage and filled gaps with additional interviews, which they filmed in a studio at the height of the shutdown while following health and safety protocols. 

The entirety of the music paired with the documentary is also produced by the chorus. 

Coogan and Willer hope LGBTQ people and non-LGBTQ people alike watch the film and that they experience a “shifting perception.” 

“We tried to cover as many different perspectives as we had access to that had stories to share,” Willer said. “And to give a sense of relatability and humanity to people that are human, and deserve to have their voices heard, and hopefully in a way that is affecting, and that lasts for whoever might watch it.”

“It’s not about one person, but all these different perspectives,” Coogan added. 

The title of the documentary is a spin on a translated news headline in Poland when the chorus went there in 2005 — “Music Triumphs Intolerance.” It also communicates the mission of the group in a clear, concise way, Coogan said. 

“When it really comes down to it, music does triumph over homophobia,” he said. 

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