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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

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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