Blast from the past

Nostalgia was in the air as the Big 80s Rewind Festival rolled into town

Eighties pop has long become a neutral ground for social functions _ from weddings to office parties. The music of the era has become something so familiar, so acceptable and child-friendly, despite its loud fashion statements, to most that it's always safe to lean on '80s mega hits to get the party going.

Village People

Thirty years later, we're still banging on about that decade like it had never gone. To be fair, not everything about the '80s was giddy, neon coloured or bubblegum synth ridden; there was darker, more adventurous music, too, if you care enough to look for it.

But there was none of the avant-garde '80s to be had last Friday when the Big 80s Rewind Festival rolled into town. Consisting of Johnny Hates Jazz, Belinda Carlisle, Village People, Tony Hadley and Rick Astley on one stage, the so-called festival was all about nostalgia and reminiscing about good ole times.

Packing in Bitec Convention Centre, the crowd was, of course, on a more mature side with curious youngsters spread around the hall like cherries on top. For once, I am happy to report that I was among the younger crowd, but it didn't translate into not knowing any of the songs, as these are the classics that you still hear until these days.

With a mixture of '70s and '80s hits blaring out from the speakers around the venue, the crowd appeared to be in a collectively happy mood, chit-chatting and taking photos with sponsorship backdrops. It was probably the high time for these power players to take a rare break from the grind to remember what life without tax and bonuses was like.

Thanks to the heavy pay-day Friday traffic, a lot of people missed Johnny Hates Jazz who was the first to ``Turn Back the Clock''.  Clark Datchler and Mike Nocito seemed unable to wipe the smiles off their faces when fans sang along to their songs including the biggest hit, Shattered Dreams. Datchler's vocal prowess must have thinned out as time went by.  Still, Johnny Hates Jazz set the mood for the night.

As the only female performer, Belinda Carlisle should have and could have worn something more glam than the mumsy outfit of capri pants and ill-fitting jacket she had on. Especially when the male performers (sans Village People, of course!) made an effort to be in crisp, tailored suits. Ms Carlisle was animated on stage, but sadly her singing ability was not as tight as it once was despite her enhanced facial elasticity. She hit a critical point in Circle in the Sand, but Heaven is a Place on Earth saved her set on its mega-hit strength.

I also expected as much from the Village People, but the principal singer, who was the officer of different sorts, was rather strong, and carried the segment until the end. Despite their numerous disco hits and global popularity, the Village People has always been treated as musical caricatures, but I, somehow, realised during their flashy performance that if one believes in what one is doing enough, there's always some kind of redemption. That's exactly what happened with the Village People. They believed, and we did too.

I would also like to insert a complaint here. You can skip this bit if you don't want to read another rant of mine, but if you were one of the uninvited stage invaders during YMCA, maybe you should read this. As much as you're supposed to have fun during concerts, maybe a little consideration would go a long way when you decide you want to clamber on to the stage and interrupt the performers, as well as distract fellow audience members. Stage crashing can sometimes be fun at certain types of live showcases, but please, these villagers are in their twilight years, so let them have their moment with their biggest hit. Also, most of the people didn't pay to see you doing the Y, the M, the C and the A. We all knew the routine.

Luckily Spandau Ballet's lead singer Tony Hadley didn't have to suffer from such annoyance; although I would love to see some airhead taking his microphone and starting an off-key version of True. Hadley was ballsy when he chose to cover three songs: The Killers' Somebody Told Me, the Stereophonics' Dakota and Duran Duran's Rio. The older crowd seemed stunned at the first two choices, but it didn't matter because Hadley still got it. Suave and classy, Hadley attacked with his full voice and self-assured persona, and by the time Gold came on, the crowd was sold.

The most anticipated performer of the night was Rick Astley. Time has been really kind to the now 47-year-old singer.  Astley managed to maintain his boyish features and, more importantly, his charms and quick wit, getting the crowd to laugh here and there through his banter. Astley's voice actually grew with age. Still retaining that deep, low voice, Astley sang with ease, hardly having to make a forced effort. Never Gonna Give You Up, as expected, got everyone on his and her feet as the night came to an end.

Except for the Village People, every performer utilised the same band for the live music feel. I understand the need to update the sounds, but I'd rather hear the versions as close to the originals as possible, especially the signature rampant synth bleeps and bloops. Also, the absence of a percussion section would be greatly appreciated as it renders a rather hotel band feel.

So can we expect a '90s pop rewind showcase anytime soon? Or must we wait another decade? I hear the New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys have done major shows together in recent years. Bring it on like a pair of thongs then.

About the author

Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor