Review: Book of Love Brought a Dose of Authentic ’80s Synth Pop to Cincinnati for Intimate Concert

Ted and Susan Ottaviano came to town on April 26 for a show at The Ludlow Garage

May 7, 2019 at 1:41 pm

click to enlarge Ted and Susan Ottaviano - Photo:
Ted and Susan Ottaviano
Many people know ’80s Synth Pop band Book of Love and don’t even realize it. They were formed in 1983 by art college students Ted Ottaviano, Susan Ottaviano, Jade Lee and Lauren Roselli. The Ottavianos, who grew up in the same town in Connecticut, are only distantly related but were close friends in high school.

In 1984, Roselli gave a copy of the group’s song “Boy” to disc jockey/producer Ivan Ivan, who in turn gave it to Sire Records president Seymour Stein. Sire immediately signed them. In the course of recording several singles, the band landed a slot opening for Depeche Mode on that group’s Some Great Reward Tour in 1985. “We learned a lot on that tour,” Susan says. “We went from playing in clubs in front of 200 people to playing huge arenas.” In the spring of 1986, they released their first album, Book of Love.

An astonishing debut, it brought the group a much bigger audience, propelled by another round of shows with Depeche Mode, this time on the more extensive Black Celebration tour.  Book of Love songs turned up on several movie soundtracks, including Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Silence of the Lambs and the TV series Miami Vice.

In 2006, the group embarked on a 30th Anniversary Tour to celebrate the release of that first album.

Book of Love's show in Cincinnati on April 26 marked one of the final stops on their current tour. Only Ted and Susan were present, and while you could argue that’s all you need in a small room like Ludlow Garage, Jade and Lauren certainly were missed by the hardcore fans.

The show opened, appropriately, with “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes)," the first track on their debut album. At first, it seemed like the crowd was going to get Book of Love in full, perhaps followed by a string of hit singles. “Still Angry” and “Happy Day” followed, before fan favorite “Alice Everyday”(from the band’s third long player, Candy Carol) turned up. Then It was back to the first album for “Lost Souls” before bringing out the emotional “Miss Melancholy,” a song about dealing with depression.

How to turn the mood around after that? How about with one of the best pop songs of the ‘80s, perhaps ever? It took a few seconds for the crowd to move back into high gear, but Book of Love smashed it with “You Make Me Feel So Good,” topped off with an awesome melodica solo. Ted then took a turn at the mic with “Sunny Day” before the duo blasted into another big club hit, “Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls.” Their first hit, “Boy,” and “Book of Love" closed the show. The crowd, obviously wanting more, got “I Touch Roses,” and, fittingly, “Lullaby” for the encore.

At one point in the set Susan stated what a privilege it was to sing the songs written by Ted, but she was kind of underselling her role in the band. Make no mistake, Ted Ottaviano is an overlooked Synth Pop genius, but Susan wrote a lot of great words for some of those tunes, including “white caps break, on my wet dream” from “You Make Me Feel So Good.”

It was good to see a solid crowd turn up, particularly for a smaller market like Cincinnati with only social media, for the most part, to promote the gig. Unlike many ‘80s shows, no young people were present. Susan joked that their fans no longer needed to hire babysitters because the kids were all grown. For us old folks, it was a great night to get out of the house and relive a bit of the past.