xPropaganda – Claudia Brücken & Susanne Freytag perform “A Secret Wish” Live
Saturday 24th March 2018
@ The Garage, Highbury & Islington, London
Propaganda are one of the more overlooked bands of the 1980s. It probably didn’t help that they were on a small label (ZTT) who were busy at the time with Frankie goes to Hollywood who were at the peak of their success. Indeed, Trevor Horn apparently was meant to produce “A Secret Wish” but was too busy with Frankie so got his assistant to do it – he must have been a quick study as it sounds like classic Trevor Horn, so much so that for a long time I believed it was.
Finally, it feels like they are starting to get the recognition they so richly deserve.
“A Secret Wish” is one of my favourite albums of all time, so when I heard that front members Claudia Brucken and Susanne Freytag were to perform the album in full under the name xPropaganda – there was no question – I had to get a ticket! Lots of other people clearly had the same idea as it sold out so quickly that the promoters had to add an additional night.
I headed to the venue about 45 mins before doors open, hoping to catch a sly pint in one of the excellent pubs in the area, however as I left Highbury and Islington tube, I was astonished to see that there was already a sizable queue. Hoping to get near the front and get some photos for this review, I had to get in line, but it was worth it!
If you think traveling from Liverpool to London for a gig is a bit extreme well the people behind me in the queue had come especially from Paris, and the couple standing next to me when I got in, had come all the way from North Carolina!
He’d wanted to see them back in the day, when they played 3 stadium shows near where he lived, but for one reason or another he didn’t go, expecting to see them next time they played, and then the band split up, so he regretted it ever since, so when he saw they were performing one of his favourite albums live – he went and booked the flights!
I did wonder how they would handle Duel – the obvious track to finish the night with, but it is track 4 on the album. Would they play the album out of sequence, or finish on “Strength to Dream” which is after all how we are used to hearing the album, and tonight wasn’t a festival crowd who had to be won over, this was the hardcore fans! So did they play it in sequence, or at the end of the show? Yes and erm yes – they played it twice (thrice if you consider Jewel as an upbeat remix) a bold move but certainly, nobody was complaining!
From the opening words of “Dream within a Dream” to the final note of “Strength to Dream” it was absolute epic perfection!
Dream within a dream seemed to go on a bit longer than the album version (which is in itself 8.04 minutes) but it could have gone on for half an hour and I wouldn’t have complained, nor I suspect would the rest of the audience!
A superb night, well worth the journey!
If you missed the show either because you didn’t know about it or couldn’t make the journey, then I’ve got, great news! According to Heaven 17’s website, Claudia and Susanne are supporting them on their “Luxury Gap” tour later in the year! There are no details, and I must stress that the official Heaven 17 press release didn’t mention it (I emailed my contact but they are on holiday!) but if they perform the album in full on the tour, just imagine – 2 classic albums performed live on the same night!
I must admit I hadn’t heard of Ekkoes before, but apparently they have supported Human League on tour, and they are a perfect fit for bands like Human League and Propaganda. Nice upbeat electronic music with hints of New Order, great lyrics and easy to listen to even if you don’t know their material.
Their set was only 30 minutes, but it left us wanting more!
All in all a magnificent night!
Words + Pictures: John W. King