Saturday, August 23, 2008

Regeneration Tour

Yes, we indulged in nostalgia. On Wednesday we went with three friends to the Regeneration Tour (not to be confused with L'Arc's Regeneration tour after Sakura left)--Naked Eyes, A Flock of Seagulls, ABC, Belinda Carlisle, The Human League. Ah, the 80's live again.

I think I am learning to enjoy myself in the moment. Because I did mind so much that we are getting old and so are they, just enjoyed a pleasant evening.

Naked Eyes I like, but in the way one enjoys some foods. They aren't your favorite foods and you don't search them out, but it's pleasant to eat them when they come up. One of the members died in 1999 so it was just one and a back up band. He was a better performer than I expected. Paunchy but working the crowd despite the fact that the audience was thin at that point.

A Flock of Seagulls is one of those bands everyone remembers because of the hair, without being sure of what they sang. Unlike Naked Eyes I actually seek out Flock of Seagulls music. I had seen the lead singer on a tv show fairly recently, so knew that he would appear much as he did--paunchy, Hawaiian shirted, hair in a baseball cap, pony tail through the back--like the aging boomer that he is. And it is to be noted that no matter how old we get, the bands of our youth will always be older. Perhaps it is that that keeps the Boomers flocking to Eagles and Stones concerts.

With the exception of Belinda, it was an evening of bands known for being synth bands, but the live shows were surprisingly lively with some serious guitarists, bassists and drummers--all studio musicians for despite the band names, it was really lead singers and..., not original line ups.

What I always enjoyed about Flock of Seagulls was that for the most part, despite the cold, mechanical sound of their music (as synthesizers are often labled) and the space age trappings of their look and their titles, the lyrics are simple love songs that could almost be from the days of standards:

It's not the way you look
It's not the way that you smile
Although there's something to them
It's not the way you have your hair
It's not that certain style
Though it could be that with you

If I had a photograph of you
Just something to remind me
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing

It's not the make-up
And it's not the way that you dance
It's not the evening sky
It's more the way your eyes are laughing
As they glance
Across the great divide

(chorus)

It's not the things you do
There must be something more
If I feel this way for so long
Tell me is it all for nothing
You still walk out the door
-Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)

or

I never thought I'd meet a girl like you
Meet a girl like you,
With auburn hair and tawny eyes
The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through
Hypnotize me through
-I Ran

In contrast, there was a cleverness to the lyrics of ABC that made me listen to them over and over--that and Martin Fry's jaw line and sneer, oh, and the orchestra, can't forget the orchestra.




If I were to say to you
"Can you keep a secret?"
Would you know just what to do
Or where to keep it?
Then I say"I love you"
And foul the situation
"Hey girl I thought we were
The right combination

"Who broke my heart?
You did, you did
Bow to the target
Blame Cupid, Cupid
You think you're smart
Stupid, Stupid
-Poison Arrow

I'm not saying they are great lyrics and certainly not great poetry, but there is a certain word play that always entertains. And hearing Martin yell out, "I've Seen the Future, I can't afford it," to start How to Be A Millionaire brought back some memories:

Roulette and blackjacks - gonna build us a paradise
Larger than life and twice as ugly
If we have to live there, you'll have to drug me

Something about the rhyme of ugly and "drug me" is just fantastic to me.

Belinda...well she did three Go-Go's songs, so it wasn't a total waste, but if I drank I'd have probably gotten a refill then--especially to avoid ever hearing either Circle in the Sand or Heaven is a Place on Earth ever again. However, notwithstanding her effect on our little group, people who hadn't seemed into any of the first three seemed into her. No accounting for taste. We wanted to ask if any of them even knew what the Go-Go's sounded like (or looked like) when they began:




And then there was The Human League. I think that "Don't You Want Me" was the first New Wave song I ever heard. It was probably one of the first rock and roll songs. I was 10 or 11 and we were at a cousin's house. She had just bought the single and insisted on playing it (she was 9 or 10). I could tell that my parent's were appalled, but I wanted more only I didn't know where to go (if I'd seen Phil Oakey I'd have wanted it even more).




The copywriter of the program (after waxing rhapsodic about Belinda and comparing her to Madonna???) mentioned the impact of seeing Phil for the first time on a show. Bowie supposedly caught a live show of The Human League opening for Siouxsie & the Banshees and declared that he had seen the "future of pop music." But then Bowie is always saying stuff like that, and this would have been the original line up. Phil Oakey has of course commented (as all good 80's bands do) on his own debts to Bowie and Roxy Music. But still the high-heeled, lipsticked and eyelinered and be-earringed Oakey on the screen would have been radical.

For those who don't know The Human League, second incarnation is a study in style becoming substance. Oakey was recruited as he has said, because he was tall and looked like a pop-star. And the girls (as they are still known--though looking them up, I realize that they are only a few years older than my husband, though Oakey is 53) were 17 and 18 year olds dancing one night in a night-club when Oakey asked them sans audition to come sing back-up. And here they are, now 30 years later, considered highly influential in their own right. And, damn, if Phil isn't still, strangely sexy (same song as above).


Because they were the final act they had the most stage with 7 screens in the back showing artsy films because they have always fancied themselves as "prog. rock" more even than glam. It is Phil and "the girls" with a new back up band--including Mac as instrument. Behind Phil in this clip you can just see the screens playing morphing images of politicians--the American version featured the Bushes, Obama, McCain, Rumsfeld, and even Fred Thompson. Brainless escapism, my fanny.

My husband loves them for the progressive side (this is a guy who has all of Genesis pre-Phil Collins on vinyl)--the instrumentals and the hard stuff. I don't know if most of the crowd was ready for as Phil put it, the serious songs--Seconds about the death of JFK:
Your knuckles white as your fingers curl
The shot that was heard around the world
For a second

It took seconds of your time to take his life
It took seconds

or the harsh, The Lebanon:

And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone
From the Lebanon
The Lebanon

Before he leaves the camp he stops
He scans the world outside
And where there used to be some shops
Is where the snipers sometimes hide

The 80's when lyrics said so much behind a dance beat. Because the crowd was there to hear the dance favs.--the ones I like least. Their biggest hit, Human, I never listen to because I dislike the lyrics and it was played to death, and over time, the creepy, obsessiveness of "Don't You Want Me," have become too much for me.

Performancewise, Phil started out as something from Dark City:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/31046907@N00/2784079290/
but he quickly shed the coat and glasses down to a very well cut Armani (I only know this because I read it--not because I can tell an Armani from 50 rows away) and finally down to a black shirt with trou. The girls had three costume changes in a 45 minute set.

We had seen them 10 years ago on another nostalgia tour {have you ever noticed that none of the bands want to be called a nostalgia tour? Each band points out that they never went away--"It's the pictures that got small."} with Howard Jones and Culture Club which I don't remember particularly well--which makes me sad--but at which our friends said Phil moved very little. I do remember that The Globe review was famously--the girls still look great, still can't sing. As if to make up for last time, Phil spent the whole show running back and forth from one side of the stage to the other looking (on the side screens and through binocs.) as if he would get to one side only to realize that he NEEDED to be on the other side. He also did a strange, awkward little rocking dance from side to side. He also smiled a lot, which was nice, and different from 30 years ago.

Which is not to say I don't enjoy their pop. After closing with Human and Don't You Want Me they returned with an encore of Phil's song for the soundtrack to the piece of fluff film "Electric Dreams." It's a piece of fluff too, but I love it.

I'm listening to them as I write--it's like rediscovering them because we only had them on vinyl. I hadn't really listened to their songs in quite awhile--even though it's a short list of albums--and the concert prompted my husband to download the discography. Louise, for instance is a sweet little ballad that prefigures British "rap" like the Streets.


I am ga-ga over Tell Me When, which I had heard briefly when it came out in the mid-90's but somehow forgotten.

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