Platinum Blonde to tell their story at P.A. concert

Matt Gardner
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Platinum Blonde will perform at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Monday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the 30th anniversary tour for their debut album Standing In The Dark.

Longtime Platinum Blonde fans might be surprised to learn that the Canadian band’s debut album Standing In The Dark is now more than 30 years old.

But for lead singer Mark Holmes, the nature of the group’s performances on their ongoing 30th anniversary tour for the album belie that long history.

Prince Albert audiences, he said, can expect to see “one very excited band, playing like we just got started and we just got our first song on the radio.”

“They’ll see a band that has been through a lot and has taken turns that many people would never expect and has come through it with style, and we’re going to play with that type of enthusiasm and tell the story of Platinum Blonde at every show,” he added. “So they can expect way more than just us coming out and playing songs.”

Platinum Blonde will take the stage at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Monday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

To mark the anniversary of their debut, the band -- now consisting of Holmes and fellow founding member Sergio Galli on guitar, along with Robert Laidlaw on bass and Dan Todd on drums -- will perform Standing In The Dark in its entirety at the concert.

The show will also include a fair amount of visual storytelling and special effects.

“It’s almost like a Platinum Blonde timeline,” Holmes said. “We’re going to start from the first album as a three-piece as we were, and then gradually evolve into what we are now at 2014 in our (new) record that was just released a little while ago.”

As the band reflects on its early years, they also plan to incorporate a contemporary unreleased song that they recently rediscovered via the Internet.

In that early period, Holmes noted, the group had played large venues such as Maple Leaf Gardens when its only release was a six-song EP.

To pad out their setlist, the band had put together other original songs and performed them in an unfinished form.

“Sometimes I’d sing different things each night to the same song because we didn’t really know,” Holmes recalled.

“In fact, we played in front of 30,000 people at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, headlined -- it was just us playing -- and we were live on the radio and I was still making up words to the songs,” he added with a chuckle.

From the band’s beginnings playing covers of songs by The Police on the university and club circuit, Platinum Blonde gradually rose to fame on the back of their original material.

Throughout the 1980s, the band enjoyed a series of platinum albums and hit singles such as Doesn’t Really Matter, Not In Love and Crying Over You.

Recalling the music and its era, Holmes noted that the band produced its classic material at a time when developments such as AIDS and acid rain were first coming to light and Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation remained.

“You’ve got to remember, we were writing these songs for the most part (when) we -- as did many, many other people --- felt that there was a real possibility of somebody pressing a button and we’re all going to be gone,” Holmes said.

“The music we were writing was really reflective of the time,” he added. “When you play it today, it literally sounds like it was recorded a few months ago and just released last week … It’s just as relevant now as it was back then. It’s just how one interprets the lyrics.”

But as the 1990s dawned, the music industry began to turn on Platinum Blonde.

An early warning sign was the release of its 1990 album Yeah Yeah Yeah under the name The Blondes -- a change that Holmes noted was entirely unapproved by the band.

“I don’t even know what that was … All of a sudden the album came out and it’s something that we didn’t approve by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

It’s almost like a Platinum Blonde timeline. We’re going to start from the first album as a three-piece as we were, and then gradually evolve into what we are now at 2014. Mark Holmes

In the new musical climate, the music industry’s attitude towards Platinum Blonde changed quickly and dramatically.

“The industry really didn’t like us very much and they were just kicking the living s--t out of us when we were down, and it was tough,” Holmes said.

“It was literally like we’d returned from Vietnam and we were being called baby killers. It was so, so rough. The industry just wanted to destroy everything we did.”

As the band members went their separate way to pursue solo projects, Holmes distanced himself from the Platinum Blonde name and took on a new guise as a DJ.

But reflecting the cyclical nature of the music industry, the passage of time gradually led to the resurrection of the band’s reputation from the grunge-era doldrums.

Soon Platinum Blonde began influencing a new generation of musicians, such as the Canadian electronic band Crystal Castles -- who recorded a popular cover of Not In Love featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on vocals.

Those changes also found a reflection in the music industry itself.

“What had happened is as the haters, so to speak, started to get on in years and all of a sudden their jobs were taken over by other people, it turned out they were taken over by our fans -- and the press who had hated us, all of a sudden the ones that liked us were helping out and new people were coming along,” Holmes said.

“So the industry … started to change and as that industry changed, all of a sudden we found ourselves in a situation where we were actually being loved and not hated so much.”

It was while Holmes was working as a DJ that he finally came around to the suggestion of bassist Kenny MacLean -- who had joined Platinum Blonde as its fourth member in 1985 -- that the band should reunite and record a new album.

In November 2008, Holmes performed two songs with MacLean onstage at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto to solidify the band’s plans to get back together.

Tragically, MacLean died of a heart attack only hours after the show.

“He was extremely happy -- never seen him so happy, he finally got through to me, as he would put it -- and we lost him that very night,” Holmes said. “He was gone.”

“But one thing that had not gone was our resolve to take care of unfinished business -- and unfinished business is that we’ve got a lot to give still musically.”

As Platinum Blonde began writing its first album in more than two decades, Holmes channeled his emotions in a creative direction.

“A good deal of time after Kenny had passed, the first song I wrote literally was a song called Shined … It was about Kenny and my relationship with him and it was a very emotional song,” Holmes said.

“From that point forward, everything else just flowed out.”

The band officially resurfaced in 2012 with its new album, entitled Now & Never.

Subsequent tours, Holmes said, have illustrated the wide age range of the band’s fan base.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “The younger fans know all the new stuff and they really are into the first record as well -- that raw indie three-piece sound.

“As a result, this tour is going to be good for everyone. It gives the new fans a chance to see us as we started and gives the classic fans a chance to see us as they remember -- and I think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Tickets for Platinum Blonde cost $43.05 and are available online or at the box office.

Organizations: Prince Albert, E.A. Rawlinson Centre, The Blondes Mod Club Theatre

Geographic location: Toronto, Maple Leaf Gardens, Vietnam

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Recent comments

  • MIke
    March 18, 2014 - 10:29

    Great tunes, new and old! Nice to see a come back.

  • Julianne
    February 07, 2014 - 07:27