Photos: Alex Kluft Review: Luis Echeverria
“Retro Futura returns to Greek Theatre on a clear Tuesday evening bringing you the best of 80’s New Wave and synth pop. This year’s line-up is bigger and better, featuring cult favorites like Men Without Hats and The English Beat, plus the return of 80s crooner Paul Young for the first time in almost 3 decades. Leave it to Howard Jones to gather some of the best and yet underrated acts together on one stage.”
The show began with Katrina, formerly of Katrina and the Waves, bringing a brief yet energetic performance featuring classics like “Goin’ Down To Liverpool” and “Walking On Sunshine.” While she exited the stage, the band remained to support Paul Young.
Although Paul’s voice has suffered over the decades due to exhaustion and other vocal health ailments, resulting in his higher range being completely shot, he’s reinvented his artistry as an interpreter of many great compositions such as “Come Back and Stay”, “Some People”, and the Daryl Hall-penned “Everytime You Go Away”. His voice may sound deeper, but the passion and emotion still remain after all these years.
Next up was Modern English whose sole hit “I Melt With You” stands the test of time as one of the most recognizable songs in the public consciousness. Yet, listeners underestimate the band’s talent for crafting memorable hooks with elements of post-punk, New Wave, synth pop, and art rock. Take the punk edge of Joy Division, the art rock tendencies of the Talking Heads and mix those with the pop sensibilities of The Cars, then you have Modern English. Songs like “16 Days” and “Hand Across The Sea” faithfully represent the artistic merit that the band has always strived for but never given credit. Their performance sparked the crowd to get up on their feet and dance like it’s 1983 again.
The English Beat started out with a comedy act featuring the stage crew working somewhat incompetently to fix Dave Wakeling’s microphone, cutting the band’s set by approx. 10 minutes. All the while toaster King Schascha killed time by leading the band and the crowd in an impromptu rendition of “Rude Boy Skank” followed by “Spar Me Wild”. Once the technical difficulties were sorted out, the band wasted no time and dove straight into “Mirror In The Bathroom”. The audience danced and skank through their whole set. It was hit after hit: “Tears of a Clown”, “Too Nice To Talk To”, “Tenderness” and “Save It For Later” (featuring an intro homage of “Betterman” by Pearl Jam, which was inspired by the Beat’s classic). Finally, the party has begun.
Next was a brilliant yet strange performance by Men Without Hats. The band delivered a number of quirky synth pop classics such as “Antartica”, “Pop Goes The World”, and “Where Do The Boys Go?”. Though it was somewhat awkward that the band would start off and end their performance with their biggest his “The Safety Dance”, playing the song in full each time. Nonetheless, a good time was had by all and served as a fitting segue into the night’s headliner.
Howard Jones remains one the most understated 80s icons who revolutionized synth pop in it’s early years with hits like “What Is Love?” and “Like To Get To Know You Well”. His live show this time around has sonically expanded with the addition of a second electric drummer and a guitarist. Howard’s performance offered no shortage of hit classics including “Life In One Day”, “New Song”, “No One Is To Blame”, and “Everlasting Love”. The set also included lesser known cut “The Prisoner”. His voice still cuts deep and he continues to break the boundaries of music technology with his custom state of the art keyboard rig and multimedia stage show. His performance ended with “Things Can Only Get Better”, not only a fitting song for the times we live in, but a rousing optimistic end to a memorable night of 80s nostalgia in 2017.