ABC – The Lexicon of Love Live


Released in 1982, ABC’s The Lexicon of Love is a career and era-defining classic that regularly and rightly appears on lists of the greatest albums of all time. The Lexicon of Love Live is a celebration of that album, performed with a full orchestra in the band’s home city of Sheffield to mark the 40th anniversary of its release.

ABC’s post-Lexicon journey was a wild ride. The band followed their chart-topping debut by tearing up the rule book for their sophomore release, the guitar-driven Beauty Stab. 1984’s How to Be a Zillionaire was a glorious, but very different kind of pop album – big beats, bright colours, sporadically beautiful but more frequently brilliant but bonkers (’15 Storey Halo’, I’m looking at you!). Alphabet City was chic, sophisticated and bore a strong family resemblance to Lexicon, only for the band to defy expectations once more and veer towards house music with their 1989 album Up. As someone who loved ABC, I was here for all of it, but it must have been confusing for the casual music fan who enjoyed the band’s debut album and just wanted more of the same.

In 2016 ABC delivered just that in the form of a sequel: The Lexicon of Love II. Whilst it didn’t scale the heights of the original and lacked the panache of Trevor Horn’s production, it was still a strong, coherent album that took many of the things that made The Lexicon of Love great – widescreen melodies, lush orchestrations, romanticism, intelligent lyrics – and revisited them all with the wisdom and perspective of experience. It also retuned ABC to the top ten and enabled them to pair their current release with a much beloved classic.

The first half the show is a selection of songs from this back catalogue which, for the most part, plays to the fans of both Lexicon albums. The orchestral ‘Overture’ sets the scene before the ebullient ‘When Smokey Sings’ opens proceedings. There are four selections from The Lexicon of Love II with the euphoric ‘Viva Love’ and ‘The Flames of Desire’ coming across particularly well, but perhaps the most interesting moments come from songs that were not originally orchestral. Rather than merely adding strings for the sake of it, Anne Dudley’s soaring arrangements adorn ‘Ocean Blue’ and ‘Be Near Me’ beautifully, whilst on ‘(How to Be A) Millionaire’ they are dramatic and inventive.

The second half of the show is The Lexicon of Love performed in its entirety. ‘Poison Arrow’ and ‘The Look of Love’ are pristine pop classics, but it is great to hear excellent album tracks such as ‘Show Me’, ‘Many Happy Returns’ and ‘Date Stamp’ performed with a full orchestra. Martin Fry is in fine form throughout and seems to grasp not only the significance of The Lexicon Of Love as a personal landmark in an enduring career, but also how cherished the album is by his audience. Forty years is a long time and for many the album is part of their youth, their memories, and the soundtrack to their lives. In that sense The Lexicon of Love Live is less about nostalgia and more about capturing a moment in the here and now, a collective journey experienced together on a special night. The running order of the album is tweaked slightly so that it concludes with a crowd pleasing ‘All Of My Heart’ rather than the moody but magnificent ‘4 Ever 2 Gether’, before an encore of ‘The Look Of Love’ brings the show to a close.

If you have never heard the daring pop masterpiece that is The Lexicon of Love, then please step away from this review and rectify that immediately. In the meantime, The Lexicon of Love Live serves as a celebration of a seminal album and a gentle introduction to a diverse body of work.

Track List:

Disc One:

1. Overture

2. When Smokey Sings

3. Viva Love

4. The Night You Murdered Love

5. (How To Be A) Millionaire

6. The Flames of Desire

7. The Love Inside the Love

8. Ten Below Zero

9. One Better World

10. Ocean Blue

11. Be Near Me

Disc Two:

1.Show Me

2. Poison Arrow

3. Many Happy Returns

4. Tears Are Not Enough

5. Valentine’s Day

6. The Look of Love

7. Date Stamp

8. 4 Ever 2 Gether

9. All of My Heart

10. The Look of Love (Part 4)

11. The Look of Love (Encore)