This is the second time of seeing Engage. Last time was at Shepherds Bush Empire as an unplanned last minute outing - Howard Jones 30th Celebration. I was so knocked out by it that when this performance was announced I snapped up two VIP tickets.
Mary was not interested in going, not really her kind of music, so our friend Nigel took the spare ticket. We met up beforehand for a quick bite and in for the VIP pre-concert show. Last time Howard did an acoustic set. This time he did just one song but he talked through his 'rig' - how he had set up his keyboard for various effects and then performed the song to illustrate the effects.
Many concerts I have been to all you can see are the glow worm screens of smart phones. I do take a few photos but spend most of the time attending to the concert.
When I saw Kate Bush she appealed to her audience to be there in the moment: "It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras. " A sentiment I can agree with.
Howard has taken the opposite approach of "If you can't beat them, join them." He commissioned an app so that the phone becomes part of the show. Images synced to the show are broadcast to all the phones in the audience. And if you are using the phone to watch images you are not using it to take photos or record the show.
The first half of the concert proper was a performance of Engage. It features a see-through screen on which various images are projected and you could still see the performers through the screen.
In general the images broadcast to the iPhones matched the projection on the screen.
I also have the DVD of Engage for which Howard went the crowdfunding route at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/howardjonesengage. Options included everything from a signed copy of the DVD, through a set of hand-written lyrics, to a day in the studio with Howard and even his actual Roland keyboard.
After the interval it was the greatest hits with all the songs we know and love.
Part of the deal with the VIP tickets was a free glass of sparkling wine in the "exclusive" after show party (that is me and 299 other VIP ticket holders). The big surprise was Howard popping to do short jam with an accompanying guitarist. He sang for about 20 minutes a fairly random medley some of which were suggested by the audience.
My suggestion to Howard would be to include a VIP mosh pit option. Last time I was on the floor and really close up which was a much more Engage-ing experience.
All-in-all well worth the VIP ticket price