[MUSIC/Pop ~ AUS/UK]
Thebarton Theatre, Wed 27 Nov, 2019.
Y’know, in the ‘90s, the ‘00s and the ‘10s, people would often refer to the 1980s as the decade that taste forgot. The fashion was mocked, the hairstyles ridiculed and the music dismissed as disposable, synth driven drivel that was cheesy and without any worth. But I’d like to say a hardy ‘fuck you’ to those people. The eighties were brilliant. The fashions were completely ‘ace’ at the time. The gravity-defying hairdos may have singlehandedly destroyed the Ozone layer (there should be marches against Silhouette Black), and as for the music there were mountains of fantastic music. Mainstream pop was exciting and glamorous; we had ace pop stars. And as tonight’s line-up and the rapturous reception they get from the audience leave no room for doubt, people love these artists and these songs.
‘80s Mania has been bringing ‘80s packages through Australia for the past few years and a bunch of tonight’s line-up are regular visitors. But opening proceedings tonight are A Flock Of Seagulls who have never been to Australia before. I get incredibly annoyed by the term ‘one hit wonder’ because it usually just means “I only know the one song”, certainly the Seagulls ‘one song’ is a corker, but they were a terrific band and had fistfuls of excellent synth-driven pop-tastic songs. The band was rather unfairly over-shadowed by one of the most noteworthy hairdos of the era and the mammoth success of that one song.
Tonight’s set is a brief four song twenty minute run and not long enough for me to get to finally hear Transfer Affection, Telecommunication or It’s Not Me Talking, but I’ve waited nearly forty years so I’ll take what I can get. Tonight that means The More You Live The More You Love from the 1984 album The Story Of A Young Heart album. Space Age Love Song and Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You) from 1982 and 1983 respectively both top songs. But it is their timeless classic I Ran that has people out of their seats and dancing and singing along. It’s a belter and the ovation at the end shows the love. Surprisingly although a hit around the world Australia was the only country it reached the Number One spot. Hey Abstract Entertainment, please bring A Flock Of Seagulls back soon.
Wang Chung/Cutting Crew are up next and I am immediately wondering where bass player Nick Feldman is. As the only original member of the Wang Chung band in this line up at present his absence is noticeable. Chung and Crew have been meshed together for a few years now (Chung Crew? Better than the less attractive Cutting Wang) and Crew’s Gareth Moulton is a tight fit vocally for these songs. Having seen them a few times they really pull out all the stops and are out to give everybody a good time.
After a couple of songs (Any Colour and the WC favourite Let’s Go) Moulton explains the sad news that Nick’s father has passed away and he has had to return home for the funeral. They dedicate REM’s The One I Love to him and it’s a cracking version. Their set is a mixture Chung and Crew crowd-pleaser Dance Hall Days, I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight and closing with Everybody Have Fun Tonight. By now the entire audience is on its feet dancing and I can’t help thing that future events there should be a proper dancing area. Yeah we are thirty or forty years on from when this stuff was coming out, but we are not dead and this music is made to dance to.
Most of the acts on tonight are share a core backing group, with just vocalists and the odd musician joining forces. It’s a tight outfit and they do a great job (and saves a lot of logistics with equipment and airfares). Pseudo Echo is the full touring version and they are a MONSTER live band. A well-oiled machine, who know what their audience wants and they deliver in spades, Pseudo Echo tonight are not here for a long time but they are here for a good time. Brian Canham is the sole remaining member of the original band but with his stylish Gucci gangster outfit, a cool hairdo and a set of pipes that put singers half his age to shame, they amazing tonight.
They open with A Beat For You from their 1983 debut album Autumnal Park and everybody is on their feet feeding off the bands energy. “Here we go!” Brian announces and “Come on” when joining in is required. Don’t Go from ‘85s Love An Adventure still sound fresh 35 years later. Then the title track of that record and their take on the Ike & Tina Turner dance floor filler Nutbush City Limits. Pseudo Echo were famously the first unsigned band to appear on Countdown.
Legend has it that they appeared on the show Sunday night, the next day they were getting mobbed in Melbourne, by Wednesday they had a record deal and by two weeks later they were signed to EMI, and five minutes later were riding the top of the charts with Listening (it was, in fact, a few months but it did happened fast). Their rocked up version of Lipps Inc’s disco classic Funkytown was a massive hit all over the world and with tonight’s punters. They are all having fun and so are we. They finished up with an EPIC mash up of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell and Deep Purple’s Black Night. What a party! Fantabulous!
Go West had a bunch of hits back in the day and through recent tours has maintained an enthusiastic fan base in Australia. With both original members (vocalist Peter Cox and Richard Drummie guitar/vocals) still on board they sound great and look terrific. Opening with Don’t Look Down from their 1987 Dancing On The Couch album, this song helped break them in the USA, it was a medium sized hit here but people know it. Likewise Faithful (1992) didn’t quite make the top forty here but people know it and love it.
They do three covers in their forty minute set starting with Sam Sparrow’s Black & Gold, mid set they romp through a rapturously welcomed Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran). Wolf is sandwiched between Call Me and We Close Our Eyes, two monster smash hits for the band in Australia from 1985; both songs are classic pop and iconic ‘80s anthems. The third cover version comes in the shape of a spirited Sex On Fire (Kings of Leon) which has a lot of the mums doing kind of ‘naughty-glad-the-kids-aren’t-here-tonight’ dancing.
Things wind up with King Of Wishful Thinking a song made super popular from its inclusion on the Pretty Woman movie soundtrack in 1990; a huge hit and crowd favourite. There is plenty of opportunity to dance and sing-a-long to a song that has been part of our lives soundtrack for thirty years.
People deride the music of the ‘80s and often the same people mock these package tours as well. But really they are terrifically good fun. Even if you aren’t a big fan of a particular act, the sets are all pretty brief and full of hits (theirs and other people’s), so it’s not like you have to endure anybody, just go with it and have a good time.
…Somewhere proper to dance.
…And there are a mountain of ‘80s acts touring in the UK, Europe and USA that have rarely (if ever) been to Australia that people would love to see. So perhaps consider… Marc Almond (Soft Cell), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Jimmy Somerville (Bronski Beat/Communards), Nik Kershaw, Thomas Dolby, Toyah Willcox, Musical Youth, Westworld, Blancmange, Andy Bell (Erasure), ABC, Altered Images. I could go on…and more Flock Of Seagulls.
Everybody had fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chunged tonight!
Images courtesy of Ian Bell