Mike Atkinson

Here And Now tour, Nottingham Trent FM Arena, Friday May 9

Posted in Capital FM Arena, gigs, Nottingham Post by Mike A on May 9, 2008

The first night of this year’s ever-bankable Here And Now tour saw the Trent FM Arena transformed into one giant Reflex bar, as seven chart acts from the 1980s wheeled out their old hits and several thousand eager thirty- and forty-somethings turned back the clock with them. This time around, the focus was on the latter part of the decade, and particularly the years 1987 and 1988: an era when yuppies ruled the roost, Gary Davies and Bruno Brookes ruled the airwaves, and “club culture” still meant wearing a shirt and tie to get into Ritzys. If you were at the right age to be buying Smash Hits and watching The Chart Show, then this was the show for you. Any older or any younger, and you might have found yourself muttering that old cliché: nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Hands up, who remembers Cutting Crew? With only two hits to their name (and only two members left in their line-up), the duo were on and off the stage in the blink of an eye. This was a shame, as Nick Van Eede turned in on of the best vocal performances of the night, backed by some appealingly flashy soft-rock soloing from guitarist Gareth Moulton.

Johnny Hates Jazz fared slightly better, being permitted to perform three of their four hits, in what was announced as only their second ever live appearance in the UK. Opening with the anti-war song I Don’t Want To Be A Hero, they provided the night’s one brief nod to “social commentary” — an element that was key to much of the decade’s most memorable music. The band’s trademark slick suits were back, but sadly not their original vocalist Clark Datchler. New vocalist Danny Saxon gave a passable imitation, but his somewhat puny delivery failed to ignite the arena crowd.

Anyone expecting to see the full original line-up of Curiosity Killed The Cat was in for a disappointment, as singer Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot shambled onto the stage accompanied by, er, nobody. According to Ben (whose unique line in stage patter is best described as “eccentric”), the other three members “said Hi” and “sent their love”. Hands up, who believed him? As Ben diddled aimlessly around the stage, drifting in and out of key, and looking thoroughly out of his depth, it was enough to make you feel nostalgic for Cutting Crew.

With the evening in danger of floundering in a half-baked stew of half-remembered mediocrity, it was time for a seasoned professional and a proper star to rescue the proceedings. On that score,ABC’s Martin Fry delivered in spades. A veteran of the nostalgia tour circuit, he knew what was expected of him, and he knew how to pitch it to perfection. As the opening chords of Poison Arrow rang out, the whole night stepped up a notch, the crowd rising to their feet and bellowing along with some of the sharpest pop lyrics ever written. If Ben from Curiosity was the random youth trying to chat you up at the bus stop, Martin from ABC was the smooth gigolo, sweeping you off your feet in the cocktail bar.

Boasting a similar veteran’s pedigree, Paul Young gave an equally arena-friendly performance, hurling his mike stand around the shop in best Rod Stewart style. Although numbers such as Love Of The Common People suffered from the absence of female backing singers (hands up, who remembers the Fabulous Wealthy Tarts?), and although Young struggled with his upper register onCome Back And Stay and Senza Una Donna, a terrific extended performance of I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down turned out to be the night’s unexpected musical highlight. In particular, it allowed the six-piece house band to demonstrate what they were made of. On stage for the full three hours, during which they trawled through thirty-seven songs and a myriad of musical styles, the band were the unsung heroes of the night.

As the acts got bigger, the sets grew longer. Bananarama managed nine songs in thirty-five minutes, spanning seven of their most successful hit-making years. With founder member Siobhan and substitute member Jacquie long gone, Keren and Sara have been performing as a duo since the early 1990s, cranking out their roster of camp classics with a delightful disregard for stage-school slickness (they still have trouble remembering the set list) and sophisticated vocal technique (you’ll still search in vain for a harmony line). That said, the set was tightly and ably choreographed, the girls being joined on stage by a pair of humpy male backing dancers.

And finally, and to a hero’s welcome: Rick Astley, making his debut on the nostalgia circuit, and cheerfully admitting to finding the whole experience overwhelming and bizarre. Now re-established in the nation’s affections thanks to an Internet phenomenon known as “rickrolling”, Astley surfed a tide of goodwill from the crowd, which was almost enough to cover his lack of memorable hit singles. (Hands up, who can name more than three of them?) Admittedly, it all got a bit Cruise Ship during his syrupy cover of When I Fall In Love, and even Rick himself seemed less than enamoured of some of the later Stock Aitken Waterman hits (he could barely wait to get to the end of the frankly rubbish Take Me To Your Heart, exclaiming “will this madness never end?” during the final chorus). However, all was forgiven in time for the grand finale, and the only chart-topping song of the whole night: the immortal Never Gonna Give You Up, which duly raised the roof and sent the crowd home happy.

Set list:

Cutting Crew: I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, I’ve Been In Love Before.

Johnny Hates Jazz: I Don’t Want To Be A Hero, Turn Back The Clock, Shattered Dreams.

Curiosity Killed The Cat: Down To Earth, Misfit, Ordinary Day, Name And Number, Hang On In There Baby.

ABC: Poison Arrow, Tears Are Not Enough, All Of My Heart, When Smokey Sings, The Look Of Love.

Paul Young: Love Of The Common People, Come Back And Stay, Senza Una Donna, I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, Every Time You Go Away.

Bananarama: Cruel Summer, Really Saying Something, Robert De Niro’s Waiting, I Heard A Rumour, Nathan Jones, I Want You Back, Love In The First Degree, Venus, Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye).

Rick Astley: Together Forever, She Wants To Dance With Me, Hold Me In Your Arms, When I Fall In Love, Take Me To Your Heart, Cry For Help, Whenever You Need Somebody, Never Gonna Give You Up.

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