Tony Hadley’s split from Spandau Ballet hasn’t exactly been a friendly affair.
The singer, known now as ‘Tony Hadley, ex-Spandau Ballet’, exited the group earlier this year and, after some mudslinging in the press, fans were left divided: was Hadley forced to quit? What exactly happened behind the scenes?
For Hadley, it’s a sore spot. He refers to 2017 as the year he “finally” left Spandau Ballet, the English electropop outfit that shot him to fame in the 1980s. Officially, he can’t say why he walked away.
“It just got to the point — I mean, for legal reasons I can’t talk about it now, but it will come out at some point. I just try to keep a bit of a dignified silence, really, but there are very specific reasons as to why I left,” Hadley tells Gulf News tabloid!, over the phone.
Performing solo at Taste of Abu Dhabi on November 9, Hadley nonetheless promises to sing all the group’s biggest hits: Gold, True and his personal favourite, Through the Barricade.
The 57-year-old is no stranger to solo stardom — Spandau Ballet went on a 20-year hiatus in 1990 — but he remains proud of the legacy he built inside the group, including their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985.
“We’ve done lots of good stuff as a band,” he says. “My memories are not, maybe, as fond as they should be. I’m not a terribly nostalgic person, so I can move on pretty quickly.”
Luckily, he has plenty to move on to: he has a new single planned for January, and a new album coming in late spring. He describes it as dancey, orchestral, and “quite quirky”.
THE SAME BUZZ
He’s not one to get stuck in the past, anyway. Unlike an elite collective of music purists, who are convinced that this-or-that genre has gone to hell in a handbasket, Hadley is more interested in what the current music scene has to offer.
He attributes this to his second youngest daughter and his biggest influence, 10-year-old Zara.
“She’s always like, ‘Dad, listen to this’. It might be the latest Ariana Grande single, or 21 Pilots, or Chainsmokers, or the 1975, or Wolf Alice, or Panic! at the Disco,” says Hadley.
“There’s a lot of people that go, ‘Ah, the ’80s were the best.’ But hold on a minute — there’s some good music out there. Very, very good stuff. Open your eyes a little bit,” he adds.
Hadley can mine inspiration from any one of his five children: Thomas, 33; Toni (his female namesake), 31; Mackenzie, 26; Zara, 10; and Genevieve, five.
Alongside family, he’s faithful to the road. Once you get a taste of touring and performing live, he says, it’s not something you can give up easily.
“I still get the same buzz that I did when I was 16 and we were in the school music room performing songs,” he says. “If your voice is still working when you’re Tony Bennet’s age, for instance — he’s 92 and he’s incredible. Why not? What are you going to do, sit at home and watch TV? I wouldn’t know what else to do, to be honest.”
Hadley also enjoys the long-haul flights that take him around the world. From England to the UAE, there’s seven hours to kill — plenty of time to cycle through the science fiction films his wife hates. His favourite aeroplane watch?
Final Destination, Hadley jokes, laughing (the movie features a terrifying aeroplane explosion).
“What you don’t want to do is get the sad movie on — the weepy movie. You’re leaving your family, you’re going to be away for a few weeks …”
One time, Hadley, who describes himself as “quite an emotional person”, chose a particularly upsetting tear-jerker (he can’t remember which) to watch. It put him in such a state that a flight attendant had to approach him.
“The tears [were] just running down my face. The stewardess came up with a box of tissues and said, ‘I think you need these’,” he recalls.
‘YOU HAVE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE’
Life in 2017 is different than life in the ’80s, when Hadley reached peak popularity.
On September 9, he performed as part of a music festival dubbed Lost 80s Live at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The following month, 58 people attending a country music festival at the same venue were killed in the deadliest shooting in modern American history.
“We were in that hotel, you know?” says Hadley. Does it impact him personally, the fact that so many of these concert halls and arenas are being targeted?
“You can’t [let it]. I go on the underground in London. I’ll be on the underground tomorrow. You can’t think about it. You may be more vigilant, but basically, you’ve just got to live your life and that’s it,” he says.
“You can’t let these people defeat you. They don’t like our way of life, they don’t like what we stand for, and we don’t like their way of life. It’s just the way it is.”
As 2018 rapidly approaches, Hadley is focused on continuing to tour and putting out new music. Quizzed on whether he’ll one day pass the musical baton to one of his children, he mentions Zara again.
“Zara’s got a good voice, actually. It’s getting better and better all the time. She’s only 10 — but give it another two or three years. She’s got the power,” he says.
“I want her to study academically, and if she chooses at a later date when she’s older to get into drama or singing, well, fine. It’s a very precarious business, though. Especially now.”
For now, he’s the musician of the family, letting his songs take him where they may. At Taste of Abu Dhabi, he’s ready to have his hands full with more than just music.
“I’m a real foodie. I go to Italy a lot, so I love Italian food,” he says. “But in the UK, we love Chinese food, Indian food, the British food is really good now. Indonesian, Greek, Turkish. Anything. I’m looking forward to sampling.”
Don’t miss it
*Taste of Abu Dhabi takes place at du Arena on Yas Island, from November 9-11. Ticket, starting at Dh65, are available on tasteofabudhabi.com.