Blancmange kick off tour with three dates in the county

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It’s not every day that a band with seven top-40 hits – three of them top-10 – starts a tour with three Lancashire dates.

But I guess Blancmange wasn’t just any band.

There is a reason of course, the 1980s pop duo’s singer Neil Arthur originally hailing from Darwen.

Neil joined forces with Middlesex-based instrumentalist Stephen Luscombe as part of a three-piece in 1979, and as a duo three years on they saw success on hypnotic crossover dance hit Living on the Ceiling, No.7 in the UK charts.

The debut album Happy Families went on to reach No.30, with follow-up LP Mange Tout a top-10 hit.

Now Blancmange are back, having reformed in 2011 after 25 years, starting at The Grand in Clitheroe on November 3, before two dates at Darwen Library on November 4 and 5.

And those dates will be followed by Manchester Sound Control and nine other dates up to Cardiff’s Ifor Bach on November 16.

The show itself will see the band’s landmark 1982 debut album, Happy Families, newly re-imagined and re-recorded, performed in full for the first time, and available exclusively at tour venues.

Never one to stand still, Neil has given songs that influenced so many bands in later years and won popular acclaim three decades ago, a 21st-century spin.

The new version has been re-christened Happy Families too... and given updated artwork, a later deluxe version being launched at a later date to coincide with a download release, the album available digitally worldwide.

But for now the tour will be the only place fans can get their hands on a numbered, limited first edition hard copy.

Neil has taken a new approach to fans’ favourites like I Can’t Explain, Waves, Feel Me and Living On The Ceiling, using today’s technology. He said: “Each time we perform it’s a different interpretation. So rather than just dust off the old songs, I wanted to bring something fresh to the project and make it a contemporary reworking.”

Health issues will rule out Stephen joining Neil on tour, but he’ll be joined by guitarist David Rhodes, who was on the original album, and sound engineer Adam Fuest, a long-time collaborator.

Neil said: “The intention is to do something a bit like Roxy Music with Brian Eno, processing sounds live during a performance. It might be less predictable, even a bit chaotic! But I like the excitement, the chance element – a feeling I’m moving forward creatively.”

Blancmange melded a unique sound, bringing together electronic and eastern influences, the debut album winning them a legion of fans.

From experimental synth wave to chart-topping yet credible hits, Blancmange were at the heart of ‘80s club culture, from support slots with Grace Jones to 12” remixes, their tracks regularly played in nightclubs from New York to Berlin and London, blending with disco, post-punk, and early house.

It also sat comfortably with the synth pop of peers OMD and The Human League and leftfield cult figures like Cabaret Voltaire and XTC, popular with many of the leading electronic pioneers worldwide, predating acid house and many of the subsequent sub-genres.

Their influence on the past few years’ slew of electro revivalists like La Roux, Hot Chip and Metronomy has also been well documented.

Now, with their 2011 comeback album Blanc Burn having achieved critical acclaim, and the lasting legacy of their still-fresh past output, the band are hoping the time is ripe for yet more Blancmange action.

Tickets for the North-West and other shows are on sale now from all major outlets, priced between £16 and £22.50.

For more details head to www.blancmange.co.uk.