Tony Hadley true to form

Sarah Hardy Come and party! Veteran pop star Tony Hadley is bringing his big band tour to our region. Sarah Hardy is almost tempted to get her dancing shoes out of retirement.

Sarah Hardy

Did you grow up to True and Gold? Well, I certainly did. Boys wore frilly shirts and wanted to be pirates while us girls adopted big hair and puffball skirts. As the frontman of Spandau Ballet and New Romantic champion, Tony Hadley was pretty much the king of cool as his tunes were always the ones to get the most reluctant of dancers up to groove.

With his long, long legs (he's 6ft 4in), love of over-the-top dressing and a voice to send shivers down your spine, Tony was one of the most popular stars of the 1980s.

Now, fast forward 20 odd years and he's cool all over again. Indeed many of the great names from the '80s are back in the headlines. Just think of the gigs this summer, Kim Wilde at Blickling for example, and the hot news that the Human League are back on tour with Heaven 17!

Tony, now aged 48, has never really been away. Since the break-up of his band at the end of the '80s (and a very costly court case but he doesn't mention this!), he has worked as a solo artist - performing all over the world, releasing albums and generally plying his trade. He has in the past said that had to do this for practical reasons - he had three children to support after he lost a battle with fellow band member Gary Kemp over the ownership of certain songs. It cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds so don't expect a Spandau reunion any time soon.

But Tony's profile has increased in recent times - he won the hit TV show, Reborn in the USA, took part in Celebrity Masterchef and performed for Children in Need.

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His only UK date this summer is at the gorgeous Somerleyton Hall in a couple of weeks. And he's quick to tell me that he's planning a great night.

“People want to be entertained - it's as simple as that. You don't need to try and be too clever!”

The show will include his past hits and some great swing numbers, one of Tony's favourite musical genres.

“I'll perform for about an hour and a half. I'll do some numbers from my latest album, Passing Strangers, and throw in the classics, too. As I've got a great brass section, I want to use it as much as possible so expect a real party atmosphere.”

Tony, originally from north London, has a strong work ethic and easily reels off a whole list of forthcoming events, including concerts across Europe, various recording deals and four shows in London just before Christmas.

But he has no immediate plans to take on another theatre role. For three months last year, he played crooked lawyer Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago and received good reviews. But it sounds like it was a bit too constraining for him.

“When I'm on stage I can do what I like, really - providing I sing the songs! It doesn't matter where I go, if I stand up, sit down - all that sort of thing,” he says.

He is also enjoying his newish radio show on Virgin Radio, called Party Classics, which goes out every Friday and Saturday night.

“That's something new for me so, yes, I'm lucky that I have an interesting and varied life. But I don't stopping working - ever. The line between your private and professional life can get blurred, especially when you enjoy music as much as I do.”

Away from work and you find that he does have rather everyday interests - football and beer. He's a lifelong supporter of Arsenal, and has bought season tickets for his two sons. And I rather have to stop him as he airs his views on what the club needs to do for this coming season!

He's a real-ale fan and mentions Hadley's Gold, a nice little tipple produced by the Red Rat Craft Brewery at Bury St Edmunds, which will be on sale at the Somerleyton gig. Profits, he explains, go to the Help for Heroes charity which raises money for the rehabilitation of those wounded in war.

But what will he be wearing? It's only now that the Mr Ultra Nice Guy image somewhat slips. I love the posh suits he tends to wear these days. But Tony thinks I'm expecting him to turn up on stage in his frilly shirts and dodgy shiny trousers a la '80s!

“I don't do that stuff any more,” he sniffs. “It would be ridiculous! I'm all in favour of growing old disgracefully. I like classic suits these days - they never go out of fashion. I tend to get them made for me but I also love Dunhill and Boss.”

So, the love of fashion is still there, just a bit more grown-up these days.

Hall owner Hugh Crossley is also looking forward to the concert, urging: “Bring a picnic and a blanket for what promises to be one of the best concerts we've ever hosted. We're thrilled Tony has chosen to appear here. Anyone who enjoyed last year's Jools Holland concert, will love this even more!”

t Swinging True: The Big Band Tour comes to Somerleyton Hall, between Yarmouth and Lowestoft, on Friday, August 15. Tickets are £27.50, with reductions for children. Gates open at 6.30pm. Telephone 01603 630000 for tickets or see www.somerleyton.co.uk for more details.