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POP MUSIC REVIEW | POP MUSIC REVIEW

Erasure: Sublime slips to tedious

March 19, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Erasure created the expected synth-pop spectacle on Monday at the Mayan. The veteran dance duo's Victorian drawing-room set and period costumes underscored the drama of its pulsating disco numbers and heart-throbbing ballads, while not entirely masking their limitations.

Although more popular in their native England, instrumentalist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell have been American cult heroes since their late-'80s hits "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect."

The 90-minute set featured those tunes, along with many favorites and selections from Erasure's current album, "Other People's Songs," including a danceable take on Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" and a subdued rendition of Buddy Holly and Norman Petty's "True Love Ways."

Falling in and out of love will always be in style, and Monday's enthusiastic capacity crowd was a testament to Erasure's own enduring appeal as Bell's keening vocals and oh-my-heart theatricality kept the torches blazing.

The ornate, joyously campy presentation reinforced a romantic mystique that would have been harder to maintain had Clarke and Bell merely appeared on stage, one shaven-headed middle-aged guy manning various gizmos, the other crooning soulfully.

Flanked by two backup singers, the ebullient Bell entered wearing a voluminous black satin bustle skirt, Edwardian jacket and a veiled top hat. Soon he stripped to the outfit's bones of a red leather corset, briefs, gauntlets, boots, and hoop skirt, most of which was eventually also removed.

Clarke served as the silent corner wizard, tending his machinery and adding some spontaneity by playing acoustic guitar.

But as the songs droned on and revealed their simple formulas, even the sublime ridiculousness of it all became tedious.

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