Thursday September 17. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road.
It doesn’t start well. Walking in we see men with mullets wearing vests. There’s so much hairspray in the air that the girl having a crafty cigarette in the corner may as well be holding a flamethrower. And we haven’t seen this much distressed leather since that time we went to the abattoir.
And yet… Take the mickey out of some of their fans as much as you like (and, to be fair, it’s far from all ageing popsters in the crowd), but the boys themselves have still got it.
Tony Hadley, Gary and Martin Kemp, Steve Norman and a stand-in on drums (John Keeble is back in the UK “needing to take it easy at the moment,” according to Hadley) can not only still belt out the tunes, but do so with a wit and energy that’s infectious. They are clearly having a hoot from the get-go. Martin Kemp is introed by brother Gary playing the EastEnders theme on the keyboard and shouting, “Dot, get outta my pub!” The latter and Hadley then take to a podium for an intimate riff on Gold. And Norman does a lot of grinding and grinning with saxophones and tambourines.
It does start slow – the back catalogue arguably a little light – but the big numbers, especially Through The Barricades, are nailed with pomp and class.
The bottom line The boys still have it. This much is true.