arts

Norman The Conqueror.. Of The Saxophone

Preview: Steve Norman Pop Up UK Tour

PizzaExpress Live (Holborn) – May 25 to 27


A LOT of water has passed under Steve Norman’s bridge since Spandau Ballet split up acrimoniously in the early 1990s. Bridge over troubled water.

For a while, he jettisoned his saxophone and spent time in Ibiza falling in love with the island, its music and people. Rediscovering an inner self. Only a divorce temporarily unsettled him.

But the 58 year old has fully rediscovered his mojo. A reuniting of Spandau Ballet, culminating in a 2010 world tour, helped. As did reviving, rejuvenating projects with band Holy Holy (drummer Woody Woodmansey and Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s producer) and working with a potpourri of musical talent including Iggy Pop, Steve Harley, Kim Wilde and Marc Almond.

On Friday, the latest remoulding of this gifted musician will be on display at PizzaExpress Live in London’s Holborn when he will lead his five piece band in the Steve Norman ‘Pop Up UK Tour’. For three nights, he will play this newish and intimate venue. The fact that it is a near sell-out reflects his continued appeal. Post London, gigs in Cheshire, Frankfurt and Brighton beckon.

A little bit of soul – Norman is a self-confessed soul boy. A little bit of the Beatles. Maybe some Bowie and some new songs (he is an accomplished songwriter as well as a talented guitarist and percussionist).

And yes, he will be playing ‘True’, a song that confirmed his mastery of the saxophone and which stayed at the top of the UK singles charts for four weeks in 1983. There will also be a few other Spandau Ballet hits scattered throughout the set.

Gold? Through The Barricades? Maybe. ‘It is what some of the audience will have come to listen to,’ he says. ‘As for True, you just cannot get away without playing it.’ Fans and friends from all over the world are coming to see the great man perform. Plenty of opportunity to reminisce.

Norman is thrilled to be performing with the band he formed last year. ‘We are like a family,’ he says ahead of rehearsals for the three-night gig. Not surprising given that on board is 27 year old son Jaco (bass guitarist) and Steve’s girlfriend Sabrina Winter (ex Stereoblonde).

‘She is my girlfriend, manager and backing vocals,’ he says. ‘She is awesome, can multi-task and looks after the group.’

Completing the band are Paul Cuddeford (guitar) and Joe Bongo Becket (percussion). Threading the music will be a little ‘bit of chat’ – something he is comfortable with and which he has seen Steve Harley use to good effect in his recent concerts. Indeed, last weekend, the two performed together in Glasgow, supported by a choir and orchestra. Thrilling stuff.

‘Playing tracks from The Psychomodo and The Human Menagerie? It does not get better than that,’ he says. Norman is a great admirer of Harley’s lyrics and is delighted the Cockney Rebel will receive a lifetime award at the beginning of next month for his contribution to acoustic music (at the Acoustic Festival of Britain). Harley’s hit 1975 Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) is currently being used as the musical backdrop for the UK’s first TV advert for Viagra.

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Norman admits that for a time in the 1990s he lost his love of the saxophone. ‘I didn’t want to look at it,’ he says. ‘Suddenly the juggernaut that was Spandau Ballet came to a halt and for a while I lost my self-esteem.’ It took the best part of 13 years on Ibiza, immersing himself in club and dance music, to get back the love.

Now, he is happy to describe his saxophone as his ‘third arm’ – and believes it is the closest instrument there is to the human voice. ‘You literally sing it,’ he says. Musical poetry is created. Norman the conqueror of the purring saxophone.

Junior Walker, Grover Washington Junior and Maceo Parker, he says, have all influenced his playing. As has legendary blues singer B.B. King.

Having found contentment with Sabrina – splitting his time between her home in Berlin and his in Brighton – and thrilled with the ‘massive work ethic’ that underpins both Jaco (a model and actor as well as a musician) and daughter Lara (a chef at the Ritz London), Norman is in a sweet spot.

Indeed, despite Tony Hadley walking out on Spandau Ballet last year, it looks like the band will soon reform again with a new singer at the helm. Norman is thrilled at the prospect of performing with Gary and Martin Kemp and John Keeble and cannot believe it is nearly 40 years since the band emerged from the Blitz Club in London’s Soho. On the new ‘mini’ Hadley, he will not be drawn but an announcement is imminent.

‘It is the best job in the world being a musician’, he says. As for Friday, he cannot wait for it to come around. ‘You can rehearse until the cows come home. But there is always some flying by the seats of your pants when it comes to being on stage,’ he says.

Bring it on. True et al.

Visit Steve Norman’s Official Website

For PizzaExpress Live Dates and Ticket Info

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