Howard Jones is one of those can't-miss legends from the '80s who still takes the time to do proper tours and meet his fans after each show. So I was a bit more than devastated that I had to miss his Nov. 1 show in Clearwater -- I was moving to Orlando that day. Thankfully, our longtime Stuck in the '80s friend Sherrie Williams of Largo was there and filed this amazing review.
Howard Jones played the intimate Capitol Theater in Clearwater, Fla., on Thursday. He played to a small but very enthusiastic crowd of a few hundred people. The opening act was New Zealand native (now by way of Austin, Texas) singer/songwriter Jackie Bristow, who delivered soulful tunes that were well received by the audience. But as soon as Howard Jones was introduced, the crowd rose from their seats and gathered at the front of the stage, with a great portion of them not returning to their seats until the final encore was over.
HoJo wore the same silver and black jacket with a striped white shirt, and a black tie with metal accents that is featured in his 2009 promo photos by James Cumpsty. He had two keyboards and was joined onstage by Robbie Bronnimann on livesequencing/sampling and effects. Unlike his previous stops in the Tampa Bay area, he didn’t have his drummer on electronic drums at this show, with Bronnimann handling the drumming effects instead.
Video and special effects were projected on a screen behind the stage for nearly every song, but to greatest effect for two in particular. “Pearl In the Shell” began with a bigger than life image of a much younger Howard Jones beating a drum maniacally, it integrated beautifully with the live song. “Equality” features video of Jed Hoile, the mime who appeared in several of Jones’ videos in the early 1980s and was a mainstay of his live show during that period. The audience was quite involved in the show, with a great many people singing along to the hits as well as the deeper album cuts.
Howard seemed to really appreciate the audience reaction, coming from behind his keyboards several times during each song to sing with the audience gathered in front of the stage, dispensing handshakes and high fives throughout. On three or four occasions, he knelt down on the stage and took the hand of a female concertgoer for a verse or a line of a song. From my spot at center stage on the floor, I was fortunate to be the object of this treatment during the chorus of “Like To Get to Know You Well,” much to my bliss.
For “New Song,” Jones strapped on the keytar and led a rousing sing-along. Other songs that received similar sing-along attention were “What Is Love?,” “No One is to Blame,” “Everlasting Love,” “Life in One Day” and “Things Can Only Get Better.”
Prior to “Things Can Only Get Better,” Jones told of his visa woes on this tour, an issue resolved by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, apparently a HoJo fan. “Everlasting Love” was done a bit differently, with Jones conveying images of an old West heroine tied to the train tracks by a villain and rescued at the last moment while playing old West saloon-style piano riffs in the song. The show lasted approximately an hour and a half.
This was the second time that I’ve seen Howard Jones in concert, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting his return to the area- it is a concert that is not to be missed.