As a child of the '90s, much of my knowledge of the ‘80s comes from friends and family or John Hughes movies. Still, I'm very much a fan, and couldn't say no to the September 21 93.1 Jack FM'S Flashback Jack ‘80s event at the Honda Center, featuring Berlin, Sugarhill Gang, The Fixx, The Psychedelic Furs, Adam Ant, Rick Springfield, and Blondie.
Making my way through the aisles of colors and patterns - pink skirts with black fishnets, neon yellow/green tops, zebra fingerless gloves - and more than a fair share of Clash, Smiths and Police T-shirts, I found my seat and waited for the '80s marathon to begin.
Not counting Dramarama, who played the pre-show, Berlin was the opening band and started the night off with their single “Masquerade” from their debut album Pleasure Victim. Performing some of their classic hits, including “The Metro,” “No More Words,” and of course, huge hit “Take My Breath Away,” the band also played new material off the recently released Animal. The very danceable track “Animal” and cover of “Somebody to Love” were crowd-pleasers, as was Terri Nun's affable audience interaction.
For my age group, I consider myself relatively educated in ‘80s music. But I do admit to having a bit of a new wave bias. I was not familiar with Sugarhill Gang, although I did learn before the show that they are best known for “Rapper’s Delight,” which I did recognize. I was a little skeptical on how much I'd actually enjoy this band, and actually intended on a restroom break during their show. But their energy was seductive and I couldn't resist - especially when the audience stood up with hands in the air and hips shaking. Ending with “Rapper’s Delight,” the band invited several women to dance on stage.
I’m familiar with The Fixx only because I occasionally listen to SiriusXM’s new wave channel when I get ready for work or school. And although I did see someone in the crowd wearing a Fixx shirt, I couldn’t help but think the band was lesser known by this particular audience than the other bands - except for maybe their two more popular songs, “Saved by Zero” and “One Thing Leads to Another.” I thought the front man, Cy Curnin, was an excellent singer and rocks the long hair and denim jeans well, but the audience just didn't seem receptive.
The Psychedelic Furs
Richard Butler’s voice is ridiculously attractive. It is perfectly raspy and works well in juxtaposition to his slim and relatively nerdy look, sporting thick-rimmed glasses and a contemporary hipster style. The Psychedelic Furs performed some of their best songs, including “The Ghost in You,” “Heartbreak Beat,” “Love My Way,” and ended with their most well known single made popular by John Hughes’ film by the same name, “Pretty in Pink.” What makes the Furs such a great band is Butler’s smile and mannerisms. There is something so welcoming about Butler that even if you do not know the lyrics to their song, or know the band itself, his joy at performing is contagious. I can’t help but think of other bands from the ‘80s, such as one of my favorites, New Order, that still perform (I saw them at Coachella in April), but perform in a callous, distant way. Butler and his band always seemed happy and approachable.
Adam Ant was introduced by his dear friend Richard Blade. I am familiar with Ant’s hit singles, such as “Stand and Deliver” and “Goody Two Shoes,” but I had never actually seen any of his music videos and so had no idea what he looks like. So I was surprised to see a man with long hair and a pirate hat come out. Ant is definitely a tad eccentric, but in a good way, and he is a hell of a performer. I could not help but notice, at this point being over the half-show mark, that these performers all have two things in common: great voices and great hair.
Speaking of great hair, Rick Springfield was introduced on stage as the man whose poster was on every teenage girl's bedroom wall during the ‘80s. By the reaction of the crowd, I imagine that Springfield was big during his prime, but I didn't know who he was. In fact, I always thought The Cars sang “Jessie’s Girl” - whoops. At 64, his energy level did not falter. Stepping off the stage for “Human Touch,” appropriately, and “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” Springfield was good-natured and quite chatty with fans throughout the show. Springfield is definitely a rock star, and he will be until he can no longer fit into those blue denim jeans.
The show was terribly long, but I couldn't leave without seeing closing band, Blondie. Blondie is one of those bands that can play their most well known single (“One Way or Another”) immediately because they have a multitude of other popular singles to follow. Perhaps one of the best bands to emerge from the late-‘70s and ‘80s post-punk and new wave movement, Blondie delivered a great performance, playing a series of their greatest hits, including “Heart of Glass,” “Rapture,” “Hanging on the Telephone,” and a few new ones from their upcoming album, such as “Rose by Any Name.” They finished their set list and the event with their single, “Dreaming.”