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Pop Music Review

Erasure Makes Lasting Impression


The Universal Amphitheatre stage was transformed into a glittery ghost town for Erasure's concert Monday, providing a campy yet curiously effective backdrop for the romantic drama of the English synth-pop duo's new album, "Cowboy."

Monday's sold-out, 90-minute extravaganza (the first of two nights at the Amphitheatre) featured a covered wagon, ersatz cacti and a hotel-saloon facade. Singer Andy Bell was resplendent in several outfits--including a shiny silver, ankle-length duster and tin cowboy hat--as he pranced and mugged ebulliently. Bell wrung a surprising amount of subtlety from songs that uniformly celebrated love's joys and sorrows--especially considering that the programmed music allowed for little spontaneity.


Partner Vince Clarke mostly tended his tower of electronic boxes, climbing the scaffolding and fiddling with knobs like the Wizard of Oz--albeit behind a white picket fence rather than a curtain.

He occasionally strummed an acoustic guitar, and at one point donned a large cactus suit for a short set 'round the campfire with Bell and the four backup singers.

While the show emphasized songs from "Cowboy," the veteran team heaped on a generous helping of older favorites, including "Oh L'Amour" and ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me." If monotony ever threatened to creep into the '80s-disco-style mix, it was held back by Bell's hard work and the duo's understanding of when to quit.

As nearly flawless and abundantly fun as it was, the set underscored live techno-pop's limitations. It was as precise as musical theater, but without live musicians, the few brief technical flubs left everyone except Clarke standing around waiting for the problem to be fixed. Bell's jokes filled the gaps, but the silences were still deafening.

Nevertheless, Erasure handily proved that its proto-electronica could not only survive the '80s but also become thoroughly viable for the '90s.

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