Steve Norman remains best known as the effervescent saxophonist and percussionist with New Romantic trailblazers Spandau Ballet, though in recent years he has shown off his guitar-playing and vocal chops on tours curated by Tony Visconti to celebrate classic David Bowie albums.
Only a bold individual would place Spandau Ballet’s debut ‘Journeys to Glory’ in the same creative ballpark as ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or even ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ but it is Norman’s prerogative to mark its 40thanniversary by performing the album start to finish with The Sleevz, his family affair of a band featuring son Jaco on bass (and tartan trimmings) and partner Sabrina on backing vocals and tambourine.
Side one, track one ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ was a statement of intent back in 1981; now it’s a much loved nostalgic joint. The album’s other singles, ‘Muscle Bound’ and ‘The Freeze’, arrived in short order while ‘Confused’ was flagged as an older song from a pre-Blitz Kids era. Of all the album tracks, ‘Toys’ is the real time capsule, an overwrought, Bowie-influenced (of course) bonanza of ever-so-80s futurism with an epic guitar solo.
Sticking with the early 80s, funky non-album single ‘Glow’ was a bridge between ‘Journeys to Glory’ and follow-up ‘Diamond’, benefitting here from the epic percussion set-up of Joe Bongo Becket – Norman can’t resist joining in for maximum rhythm impact, before switching to tenor saxophone on a cover of the Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue murder ballad ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’.
The rest of the set mopped up some Spandau favourites such as ‘I’ll Fly For You’, with Nathan Evans (of Wellerman fame) an unlikely guest on True and their 24 carat classic Gold. But Norman and his Sleevz save the best to last, dining out on percussive funk odyssey ‘Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)’.