British Electric Foundation – Shepherd’s Bush Empire

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Why this gig?

This is a show I never really expected to see. I listened to BEF’s first album a lot back in the early 80s. I had no idea that they had ever played any live shows. So when I saw that they were playing live (and releasing a new album) I knew I had to see the show. This show was originally scheduled to take place in May, but it was postponed until October for reasons that were never really explained.

If you want to hear more of BEF’s music, then their early albums are hard to track down, but there’s a good compilation available.


The support were called Echoes. As an aside to any members of the band who are might read this – that’s a terrible name for a band. It’s completely impossible to find your web site. There are many bands called Echoes (and most of them seem to be Pink Floyd tribute bands).

If 80s pop ever makes a comeback then Echoes will be well placed to take advantage. Their sound fits in well with bands of that era. Think Brother Beyond, Swing Out Sister or Curiosity Killed the Cat and you won’t be far off. It was all rather enjoyable, and I wouldn’t object at all if they appeared at another gig that I see, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing off to buy their records.


And then BEF appeared on stage. Which really means that Heaven 17 appear on stage. Because BEF are largely Heaven 17 with a number of guest vocalists. And the first guest vocalist is Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory.

Gregory only stays for one song though and he’s replaced by Erasure’s Andy Bell who gives us an interesting cover of Kate Bush’s “Breathing” followed by a rather less interesting cover of Queen’s “Love of My Live”.

That’s what BEF are all about. They are a covers band. They originally recorded versions of songs that Martin Ware and Ian Craig Marsh had listened to while they were growing up. Ian Craig Marsh isn’t involved any more (I later find out that he’s no longer part of Heaven 17 either) but Martin Ware still runs the show – introducing an impressive array of guest vocalists.

There are a lot of coincidences. No sooner has The Communards’ Sarah Jane Morris left the stage when Heaven 17 backing singer Bille Godfrey steps up to cover “Smalltown Boy” which was originally sung by Jimmy Somerville (also from The Communards). Godfrey’s second performance is Denice Williams’ “Free” which was sung by Billy Mackenzie on BEF’s second album. A few songs later, Glenn Gregory returns to sing an emotional version of Mackenzie’s own “Party Fears Too”.

When it works, it works really well. Sarah Jane Morris’s “Don’t Want to Know About Evil” is a high-point, as are “Picture This” which is sung by the band’s keyboard player Bernice Scott and Green Gartside’s version of “Didn’t I Blow You Mind This Time”. At other times it veers dangerously close to karaoke. Claudia Brücken of Propaganda is disappointing when singing “The Look of Love”. Her performance seems better suited to the campy “These Boots Are Made For Walking”.

All evening Ware has been promising us a special treat. And that turns out to be Kim Wilde. She sings three songs – “Every Time I See You I Go Wild”, “Ghost in My House” and “You Just Keep Me Hanging On” – and her performance manages to stay just this side of camp.

Then Glenn Gregory returns to sing David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging” (which, to be honest, isn’t a patch on the original). And to finish we get a storming version of Heaven 17’s own “Temptation” during which the bands two backing singers really get a chance to demonstrate just how phenomenally  good they are.

During the show, Ware announced that this show (along with another the following night in their home city of Sheffield) would be the final BEF shows. I think that’s a shame. I’m sure that the band are better when playing their own songs as Heaven 17, but these shows are a lot of fun and it would be great if they could play one on two more every few years.

The set list is on

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