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Back to the 80s: My 2014 live music recap December 29, 2014

Posted by Brian in Brian Kelley, concerts, links, Music, NJ, Philadelphia, video, WXPN, YouTube.
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Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins

Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins performs “Hold Me Now” at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa., on Aug. 22, 2014. YouTube screenshot courtesy of user Steve Vitalidol.

Although my concert-going days have been limited since 2012, when my first son was born (and another one coming in early March 2015), I still try to make it to shows in my area—especially if it’s a band or artist I REALLY like and haven’t seen before or in a long time.

It wasn’t really by design, but many of the concerts I attended in 2014 were acts known more for their activity in the 1980s—Johnny Clegg, Gary Numan, The Fixx, Midge Ure (of Ultravox/Rich Kids/Visage/Band Aid fame), Howard Jones, Tom Bailey (former leader of the Thompson Twins), China Crisis and Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina & The Waves fame).

My year of live music kicked off in March with synth-rock legend Gary Numan at the Trocadero in Philadelphia. Numan’s “Cars” was a childhood favorite of mine (it was released in late 1979, when I was 8) and led to my picking up various Gary Numan/Tubeway Army records, cassettes and CDs over the years. When I saw he was playing in Philly and could get the evening free, I took advantage of the opportunity to see a legend who influenced so many electronic/pop/rock artists I love, including (most obviously) Nine Inch Nails. Here are a couple of YouTube videos from this show:

Gary Numan – “Are Friends Electric?”
Trocadero, Philadelphia, Pa., March 23, 2014

Gary Numan – “Cars”
Trocadero, Philadelphia, Pa., March 23, 2014

Later that month, I was at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia for one of the greatest concert experiences of my lifetime. Since I first heard “Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World” by Johnny Clegg & Savuka in the late 1980s, I have admired Clegg’s music and mission. Also, he’s one of the most interesting human beings in the world. You can check out his Wikipedia entry for details, but very few people can claim to be a singer-songwriter/French knight/professor of anthropology/Zulu dance master/political activist/human rights champion…AND performed on stage with a dancing Nelson Mandela in front of thousands.

Recently, I had been thinking that Clegg’s life and music would be a perfect fit for a stage musical and was thinking of how to connect with some people I now work with to explore that possibility. Well, according to Clegg’s Wikipedia entry, he is already working on one. If Johnny Clegg somehow sees this…if you complete the musical and would like to bring it to the United States, I might be able to convince a prominent theater in central New Jersey to take stage it there.

Anyway, here is an excellent write-up on the show, which also included Johnny’s son, Jesse, as the opening act. What was cool about this for me was that “Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World” was written as a pre-emptive farewell to Jesse when he was a young boy, at a time when Johnny was under threat of assassination due to his part in the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

I’ve only found one YouTube video from the show I saw in March, but it’s a good one. Here is Johnny Clegg performing “Giyana”…

Johnny Clegg – “Giyana”
World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, Pa., March 30, 2014

In July, my family tries to spend at least a few hours at WXPN’s annual XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, N.J., since there are always acts we enjoy–and this year was no different. We managed to see Ingrid Michaelson (to whom my wife and I first danced as a married couple), Nicole Atkins, Diego Garcia, Strand of Oaks, Lake Street Dive and Commonwealth Choir, among others. Unfortunately, the last time I looked, there weren’t any videos from the three-day festival on YouTube that I could find.

My 80s-themed concert-going experiences continued, though, in August when I went to Jenkinson’s on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.–right next to my hometown of Brick Township–to see The Fixx, who I hadn’t seen since a May 1991 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. My wife and I brought our kid to the boardwalk about two weeks before the show at Jenk’s (as it’s colloquially known) and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them listed on the concert schedule. I decided I had to go and I’m really glad I did, because they freakin’ rocked. I mean, this isn’t frontman Cy Curnin with some replacement guys. While not the original Fixx lineup, it’s still the classic version of the band that had a string of hits in the 1980s like “Saved by Zero” (now, a staple of car commercials promoting 0% financing or no money down gimmicks), “Red Skies,” “Stand or Fall” and “One Thing Leads to Another.”

There are a few YouTube videos of The Fixx in action at Jenk’s, but most are just parts of songs. Here is a full version of Cy & Co. performing “Deeper and Deeper,” which is pretty awesome…

The Fixx – “Deeper and Deeper”
Jenks Club, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., August 5, 2014

Later that month, I put an exclamation point on my 1980s-themed concert year when my wife and I attended the RetroFutura Tour show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa., on August 22, 2014. This show featured sets by several artists who many consider as “80s acts” like Katrina Leskanich (who has left The Waves behind), China Crisis (whose “Arizona Sky” is one of my all-time favorite songs), Midge Ure (one of my all-time favorite artists who I also saw in January 2013 and in June 1989), Howard Jones (this marked my fifth time seeing HoJo, another all-time great in my book) and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, who was returning to the stage for the first time in 27 years.

I put together a playlist of YouTube videos from that memorable night, but below is the show’s finale…Tom Bailey performing an extended version of the Thompson Twins’ classic, “Hold Me Now.” This was the second night of the tour and on the previous (opening) night in New York City, the song just ended on the final drum hit. But the next night, something kind of magical happened–and I was proud to be part of the audience (which redeemed itself for being pretty lame for most of the night). As Bailey and his band played out the final measures of the song, the standing crowd was singing the chorus. But when the music stopped, the crowd kept going. Obviously moved, Bailey brought his all-female backing band to the front of the stage to sing along with the crowd…FOR ANOTHER THREE CHORUSES!

I was so happy to witness and participate in this…it still brings chills when I watch the video.

Tom Bailey (of Thompson Twins) – “Hold Me Now”
Keswick Theatre, Glenside, Pa., August 22, 2014

What’s even more awesome about this video is that if I pause it just before the end at the 8:27 mark, I can totally see the backs of our heads near the bottom of the video window.

I actually saw a few more live acts at a special WXPN donor party celebrating 10 years at their home adjacent and within the World Cafe Live complex in Philly. The event took place a couple of hours after I ran in WXPN’s first-ever 5K to benefit its Musicians on Call program, so I cleaned up a bit, changed clothes and–after some walking around University City–came back to watch up-and-coming Icelandic singer-songwriter Asgeir and one of my favorites, Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing, back in the 1990s). Again, though…no YouTube videos from that event.

With another kid on the way, getting to some live shows in 2015 is going to be a huge struggle. Sure, we might try to get in a few hours at the XPoNential Music Festival again in July, and I’m going to try to get to a Kasim Sulton show at Tin Angel in Philly in late January (and I just saw Sophie B. Hawkins is going to be there a few days later on January 31…I’m going to have to choose). The recently reunited Spandau Ballet is going to be at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, N.J., on February 10, but I’m not sure about that one. Midge Ure is returning to World Cafe Live in Philly on February 24, but unfortunately that’s way too close to my wife’s due date (although I would really like to see Midge three years in a row after not seeing him for nearly 24 years).

What I am most excited for, from a musical standpoint, in 2015 is the long-awaited release of the new Tears For Fears album, which Roland and Curt have been working on for close to a year now. That’s supposedly coming out late in 2015.

Happy New Year!

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1. Brian - December 30, 2014

Reblogged this on Brian Kelley: Portfolio.


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