Howard Jones' new concert DVD puts his dream into action
Howard Jones is an amazingly gifted musician. Talented enough to thrill fans with every song and performance, yet humble enough to never let it go to his head. It's this intoxicating combination that fuels the concert DVD Howard Jones: Human's Lib & Dream Into Action Live at IndigO2.
A double disc set, Howard takes on his first two albums in their entirety. If there's any oddity here, it's that he chooses to tackle Dream Into Action, his second album, in the first set. Just as well: That means we get the near-pop-perfection of New Song as a finale.
Here are some thoughts on the concert package, a must-own for all Howard Jones fans. (Insider tip: Howard's about to set off on another tour, where he'll play both albums live again. Click here for tour dates. And click here to listen to my interview with Howard.)
THE LOCATION: The concert was recorded Nov. 6, 2010, at London's IndigO2, a smaller venue at the O2 Arena. About 2,000 fans are in attendance, and it has a real club-like atmosphere. Between near-dead silence between songs and applause, you can hear what the fans are saying to Howard. It's as real a concert experience as you'll likely see on DVD.
THE JOY: Howard hops around like a kid after nailing songs he hasn't played in nearly 30 years, including some songs he claims to have never played live, like Is There a Difference and Human's Lib. ("Let's sing it as an example of how not to be," Howard says, still in conflict with the nature of the song's lyrics. (Don't remember? "Sometimes I'd like to go to bed/With a hundred women or men/And lose my mind in lust and drink.")
HIGH POINTS: The concert takes off early with Assault and Battery, a tune that wasn't a big hit but one you'll immediately recognize and enjoy. He doesn't perform the songs in the same order as the album; the biggest hits come at the end of each set. But you'll be surprised by how you fall for each tune.
LOW POINTS: Not to sound like an '80s homer, but there aren't many low points. However, if you're expecting a Duran Duran or Pet Shop Boys type of stage show, you'll be disappointed. Howard's shows in general -- and this DVD -- are more stripped-down. Aside from a quirky video screen behind him, there's not much in the way of stage pizazz. With music like this, smoke and mirrors aren't needed.
HIS INSIGHTS: Listening to the banter between the songs, each of which he introduces beforehand, is a blast. Before No One Is To Blame, he lets fans know this is the Dream Into Action version -- "That's the one you always preferred, right?" he playfully asks. Yes, of course it is. "I'm really enjoying it tonight. I hope you are," he says, convincingly unscripted as the entire night was. "It's been a long journey getting to tonight."
THE KEYTAR: Oh, the beloved keytar. Does it makes an appearance? I won't ruin it for you.
THE FINALE: Before introducing New Song as the finale, he says, "I wish I could start all over again." He probably was talking about the set. He could have been talking about his career. I know I was thinking about the '80s in general. And that made it the perfect sendoff.
[Find it for sale at Howard's official website.]