July 24, 2022

Review: In Clearwater, Howard Jones remains a neon dream in action

Howard Jones
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones
A nine-year old girl attending her first concert was enough to give Howard Jones a feeling of humility and honor on Saturday night.

“I’m really honored that I’m the first gig she’s come to,” he admitted to a sold-out crowd in downtown Clearwater.

The 67-year-old new wave superstar is pretty much the definition of humility, partially because he's been Buddhist the greater part of his adult life. He’s currently in the process of creating two new albums, and to support his upcoming Dialogue record—which is already in the can, and being sold to show-goers—HoJo knew he had to make his post-COVID comeback a memorable experience for both himself and the most zen people in your friend group.

At 8 p.m., keyboardist Dan Burton entered the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre stage, struck out a chord, and Ultravox's Midge Ure—dressed in all black—sauntered out to open his support set with his solo tune “Dear God.”

Ure was his usual, snarky self while gracing the stage, busting on Saturday’s crappy weather, and the fact that HoJo’s tour bus was supposedly too small for Midge to have a full band. “I’d rather come out here and do this with half a band than not do it at all,” he admitted. What followed was a mini-retrospective of Ultravox’s career, as well as his most-played song on Spotify, a cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.”

“I’m not very happy about it, because it’s not mine," Ure said.

Other than a few technical issues that Burton had to solve on his laptop, Ure’s 45-minute set went over smoothly, with the co-organizer of Live Aid—who closed with “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”—still in top shape vocally and physically.

After a half hour intermission, Howard Jones—sporting a yellow, red, and green jacket, track pants, and black boots—swung onstage, while his four-piece band opened with “Pearl in the Shell,” on which HoJo would occasionally smash out a keyboard part on. This was a ritual he would practice throughout his 90-minute stint, even differentiating between a standup synth and a keytar—ahem, Korg RK-100S—during “Hunt The Self.”
Howard Jones - Photo by Josh Bradley
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones

HoJo let the crowd sing the choruses on “Like To Get To Know You Well,” and he described “The One To Love You” as one of his “absolute favorite recent things.” Later, bassist Nick Beggs, HoJo—propped behind a keyboard—and guitarist Robin Boult started an acoustic segment of the show with “Life In One Day.”

After making amusing mid-song commentary related to watching Netflix and “harmonious howling,” HoJo reminded the crowd that Beggs co-founded Kajagoogoo, and—albeit hesitantly—agreed to play the group’s only no. 1 hit in the U.K., “Too Shy.”

“We’d love to play it, but contractually, we’ve been banned and we might get arrested tonight,” HoJo joked, which received a response of cheers and boos. As a result, nobody got cuffed, and the cover was insanely well-received by everyone in the room, including Howard, who bowed down to Beggs at the end.

After an emotional, pre-Phil Collins version of “No One Is To Blame” that even tugged at Howard’s heartstrings, he still had one more emotional trick up his sleeve, which would include Midge Ure.

You’ve seen the glorious “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” finale from Live Aid, which HoJo and Ure were both onstage for. They figured that there was no better time than now to relive that memory, so with Howard behind a Roland RD 2000 synth and mic, and Midge standing empty-handed, the two resurrected the Live Aid finale a week and a half after the legendary concert’s 37th anniversary, which earned a major standing ovation.
Howard Jones and Midge Ure - Photo by Josh Bradley
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones and Midge Ure

Every drop of sappy waterworks left the building when keyboardists Burton and Robbie Bronnimann reentered the stage to launch into Howard’s debut single “New Song,” on which the keytar would make a comeback. Later came a new-era HoJo set, featuring 2015’s “The Human Touch,” and the yet-to-be-released “Be The Hero” and “Celebrate It Together,” the latter being written in honor of still being alive after COVID-19, and being able to tour once again.

After a few more hits (“Everlasting Love,” “What Is Love?”), Clearwater got its encore: “Things Can Only Get Better,” which segued into a remix that Howard went along with, and a band-free, piano only “Hide And Seek.”

Just like at Live Aid.
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Howard Jones
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones
Howard Jones and Midge Ure
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones and Midge Ure
Howard Jones
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones
Howard Jones
Photo by Josh Bradley
Howard Jones

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