Howard Jones is the king of 80’s synth pop and I loved him. His poster hung among my Cure and U2 posters in my room. The one time I was a truant in high school, I skipped my morning classes to buy tickets to a Howard Jones concert (I got 6th row).
I missed an opportunity to see him a couple years back in San Francisco. I saw that he was stopping in the Bay Area again so I procured 4th row seats. The concert turned out to be the evening on which we returned from Orange County. Grace just had a week of non-stop days and said she didn’t want to go. Thankfully, my buddy Erich joined me (he’s from my era).
The concert was at the Montalvo Arts Center, which is nestled into a beautiful Saratoga neighborhood. The concert was held on what is essentially a hillside behind the Villa. Upon entering, I was thinking there was a small chance I might run into someone. We immediately ran into Gloria and Robin and I proceeded to tell them how I just might be Howard’s number one fan. Well, it turns out her brother, Matt, was in fact Howard’s number one fan and ran the fan club in the Bay Area (working for Howard’s mom, Thelma).
Howard’s “band” consisted of a drummer and Robbie, the sound guy. Robbie walks out with an iPad and mounts it on his rig, which is a small synthesizer and some sort of mixing board contraption and a 13″ MBP. Howard comes out with iPad in hand, too, and mounts his above his two synthesizers (along with an 11″ MacBook Air). During this show, he played Human’s Lib and Dream Into Action in their entirety. It was only the second time he’d played all the tracks live (the first being the prior concert). He joked about how he needed to wait for the technology to do it, but this was somewhat true given how many different tracks were laid down for his studio tracks. He said Robbie spent months trying to reverse engineer the songs from the master recordings to get all the synthesized sounds right. And he pointed out that the 24 tracks required 24 different drum kits (which were also synthesized).
A few songs in, Gloria says we’re going to meet the man, so stick around. I’ve waited 25 years, so why not? We hung out for a bit and the staff announced that Howard would not be making an appearance after the show. He was celebrating someone’s birthday inside the villa while a few people still waited for a chance. The doors open and Howard’s manager singularly summons Matt and we all try to file in behind him as he’s negotiating with security, but everyone get’s the kibosh. Gloria assure’s me that he’s working on it. Meanwhile, we’re all being told it’s last call to get on the shuttle’s back to our car in the parking lot, which is a least a mile or two away. I decide I don’t want to have to hoof it home, so we leave. Gloria and her gang follow shortly, with only Matt being invited to kiss the ring.
It was an amazing show nonetheless and it really took me back to a great time in my life. Air Supply is playing Montalvo at the end of August. Who’s coming with me??????
The video is of the last three songs in his second set (“No One Is to Blame,” “Life in One Day,” and “Things Can Only Get Better”). It’s only for superfans.