This week has been filled with debating the pros and cons of one of the ubiquitous names of the 1980s, with people reliving their glory years or relieved to have escaped the horror. (And no I don’t mean Toto, though that revival is plenty weird enough if you ask me.)
But that was one of the A listers. What happened when some B, C and D-listers brought the nostalgia wagon to Sydney late in 2003? Wind Back Wednesday takes a shallow dive into a shallow pool of talent and emerges wet’n’mild.
80s HERE AND NOW
Entertainment Centre, November 17
When the ticket tout has a Warwick Capper-style bleached blonde hairstyle and the woman passing you in the aisle is wearing a polka dot bubble skirt and leg warmers over leggings it’s fair to say we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.
If you wanted to be uncharitable you could call this show the Long Way To The Middling concert. After all we were lining up for such fabulous inconsequentials as Go West, Belinda Carlisle, Kim Wilde, Paul Young, Human League and, thanks to local content rules, Mondo Rock (who probably had more hits than all the others put together and played better than everyone too) and 1927.
But hey, don’t get snooty: one man’s celebration of the past - hello a reformed Go-Betweens; welcome back Joe Jackson Band - is another’s pasty middle aged tragedy.
Anyway, it’s time. There is a generation in its early 30s now and thinking like every generation before them: gee, weren’t my teen years the best time for music, ever? This was their childhood and they were determined to wring every last memory out of it.
So bursting with excitement, so lacking in discernment were they that they even applauded Paul Young who once had a lovely nearly-Marvin Gaye voice but now has an abject croak that induces only waves of embarrassment.
If it was cringe-worthy for us to hear it, what must Paul Young have been thinking? Well, for a start he’d be thinking ‘I’m going home quite a few thousand dollars richer thankyou very much’.
While Paul Young once had a good voice you wouldn’t have claimed that for Belinda Carlisle (who had a light and pretty but quite bland voice), the three vocalists of Human League (who had a small range and no power, but great haircuts) and Kim Wilde (who couldn’t really sing at all).
Now what you usually get from older singers who may not have had the greatest pipes as youngsters is canny use of experience to compensate. Phil Oakey of the Human League worked that angle hard, even if he and his band – unlike the solo vocalists who shared the house band, the Human League brought their own, and sounded all the better for it – couldn’t rescue a set of too low-key songs that fell flat after the audience orgasm that ended the first part of the concert.
However, mass orgasm aside it was glaringly obvious that neither Carlisle nor Wilde had improved and they lacked stamina for even their half hour sets. Carlisle finished her set flat and weak while Wilde was barely able to gasp out a line and their calls for audience singalongs were as much tactical as inclusive.
Peter Cox of Go West, who disturbingly looks and sounds like Phil Collins, on the other hand is still a fine singer and an entertaining stage presence. It was no coincidence that Go West, the least known of the bands, were the punchiest and best performed overseas act on the bill.
They recognised that with jukebox entertainment the key is to be upbeat, catchy and gone before you know it, but being able to sing doesn’t hurt either.