Howard Jones’ is currently on a North American tour called “The Songs, the Piano & the Stories” which touched down at the intimate Hugh’s Room in Toronto last Wednesday for the first of two nights of memorable tunes and tales.
Having seen Howard Jones several times over the years at venues that included Kingswood, The El Mocambo and The Mod Club, I can say that this was likely the most intimate concert experience yet.
This was quite a departure from last year’s Retro Futura Tour that brought HoJo to the Kool Haus with fellow synthpop ‘80s singer Tom Bailey (of The Thompson Twins). This was a stripped down affair: Just Howard and his electric piano. No key-tar! And it was a welcome change.
It kind of reminded me of the time when I saw HoJo at the ElMo almost 25 years ago when he toured just with percussionist. That time he played on a grand piano, if memory serves. I spied a piano at the back of the small Hugh’s Room stage and was wondering when he’d change it up and move away from his electronic setup. But he stuck to the electric version.
While his songs still have staying power, it’s the stories that helped propel this show. We learned that he once owned a vegetarian restaurant in New York City in the ‘80s, where Madonna and Kevin Spacey were regulars. After performing at Live Aid in 1985, he was invited to perform in the Royal Palace for Princess Diana, who sat at the edge of the piano and looked dreamily into his eyes as he played “Hide and Seek.” After all these years, he said, it’s still the song he’s most proud of having written.
After the 2-hour acoustic set, there was a long queue at the front of the venue for an informal meet-and-greet where he graciously signed his autograph for longtime fans. It was apparent that he also won over a new generation of fans.