Review: Howard Jones – Transform 2019, St David’s Hall, Cardiff

Synth-Pop musician and songwriter Howard Jones made his third visit to South Wales on Sunday evening as his Transform tour (which also coincided with the 35th anniversary of his album debut, Humans Lib) played Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

The show began in fine form with a set performed by original 1980s new-wave synth-poppers China Crisis featuring founder members Gary Daly (vocals) and Eddie Lundon on guitars, along with Jack Hymers on keyboards and Eric Animan on saxophone.

Opening with their 1985 classic, Black Man Ray, the bands smooth pop-style incorporating jazz and synth-pop influences was the perfect opener, as was Gary Daly’s cheeky Merseyside banter with the audience.  “When Howard started out, we gave him his first big break by allowing him to support us on tour,” recalled Gary,” He’s now repaying the kindness by allowing us 40 minutes to entertain you!”

A unique version of Arizona Sky followed with Gary mentioning Cardiff in the songs lyrics while there were further dips into the bands past with other songs from the bands back-catalogue such as King In A Catholic Style, Christian (stirring up memories of TV shows Pebble Mill At One and Oxford Road Show) and their big hit Wishful Thinking, of which the band encouraged some hilarious audience anticipation.

After an interval, Howard Jones took to the stage. Recalling memories of performing at Live Aid in 1985, Howard pointed out how the recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody distorted events by implying Queen had all arrived at the event in a limousine.  “That was just Freddie Mercury,” said Howard, “The other three arrived by helicopter! I know because I shared it with them!”

Howard then opened with a piano rendition of Hide and Seek (of which he performed at Live Aid) before changing the pace with the title track of his new album, Transform.

Howard Jones played Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on May 26, 2019 Photos by Simon Fowler.Howard Jones played Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on May 26, 2019 Photos by Simon Fowler.

Howard Jones played Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on May 26, 2019 Photos by Simon Fowler.

Howard was joined on stage by the meticulous guitar playing of Robin Boult and the combined charismatic energy of Robbie Bronnimann and Dan Burton on synthesisers. The concert took on a new depth as synth sounds magically collided with spectacular lighting effects and back-drop 3-D video graphics featuring cosmic landscapes, giant toy robots, dancing mummies and male dancers.

Howard balanced the concert set-list to perfection as he shared anecdotes and memories, (including some about his family’s own Welsh roots). The music was equally compelling, acoustic renditions of Pearl In The Shell and Life In One Day (both featuring Robin Boult on acoustic guitar) were interspersed with new material such as Hero In Your Eyes and Tin Man Song,

Energetic renditions of classic hits What Is Love? And New Song were performed before the music-packed evening ended, but not before the audience received a magical encore featuring out of your seat appreciations of Like to Get to Know You Well and Stay with Me.

“Thankyou for three and a half decades of continued support,” Howard told his fans at the end of the show, “I’m not going to stop – if that’s okay with you?” The resounding applause and cheers all confirmed this was more than okay!

Don’t stop Howard! We’re with you all the way!