Howard Jones turns back the clock and repays China Crisis for his big break as Sage show brings tour to a close

Back in 1983, China Crisis took a rookie pop star called Howard Jones out on his first national tour.

Sunday, 2nd June 2019, 12:19 pm
Howard Jones was celebrating the 35th anniversary of his debut album Human's Lib at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Mick Burgess.

It wasn't long before the finely coiffured singer appeared on Top Of The Pops with a bizarre mime artist decked in chains and found himself at the top of the album charts with Human's Lib.

In an irony pointed out by singer Gary Daly, China Crisis are now opening for Howard Jones as payback for that first tour, and that was the case at this show at The Sage Gateshead last night.

Howard Jones was celebrating the 35th anniversary of his debut album Human's Lib at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Mick Burgess.

If ever China Crisis decide to call it a day there is a place on the stand-up comedy circuit just waiting for Daly, whose between-song banter had the crowd in stitches.

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But how he cursed the fact that this closing night on the tour coincided with the Champions League Final involving his beloved Liverpool.

With regular match updates from the crowd, China Crisis delivered a set of slick, smooth laid-back pop, including the hits Christian and Wishful Thinking warming up the crowd nicely for the main event.

In a low-key opening Jones sat behind his grand piano in front of a plain white backdrop to tell a story about appearing at Live Aid and being warned by Phil Collins prior to his set that the piano had a couple of out of tune keys.

Howard Jones was celebrating the 35th anniversary of his debut album Human's Lib at The Sage Gateshead. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Jones then delivered a beautiful rendition of the song he played that day, Hide And Seek, without the fear of an out of tune piano scuppering the performance.

Transform saw Jones come from behind the piano, standing alone on stage before joining his band behind the white screen for Take Us Higher.

It was certainly an effective feature seeing the band silhouetted against the screen with the lighting and projections enhancing the visual experience.

For the keyboard-heavy Equality from his debut album the screen fell away, revealing the band in its full glory, with Jones armed with his keytar and now free to roam the stage at will.

This tour is billed as a celebration of 35 years of Human's Lib, but rather than play it in its entirety the songs were featured regularly throughout the set alongside some from his current album Transform and hits from across his career.

This approach worked well, especially with his latest album being a nod back to his early days of electronic pop, which resulted in songs such as Beating Mr Neg and Hero In Your Eyes sitting seamlessly alongside Like To Get To Know You Well, which featured a tasty keytar dual with guitarist Robin Boult.

Engage saw Jones at his thumping dance-fuelled best, but the biggest cheer was reserved for the closing salvo of What Is Love and New Song, with the latter played in front of a video of vintage footage from Top Of The Pops.

Jones returned for a two-song encore, Things Can Only Get Better from his second album, and another stomping dance track, Stay With Me, from his latest record nicely book-ending his show with something old and something new to bring the evening to a lively close.