It’s no secret that I love a bit of ’80s pop. From ABC to ZZ Top, I’m really not fussy as long as you’ve turned the synthesizer up to 11. With this in mind, on Friday night my darling Mr Charming took me to an ’80s pop fest fit for a queen (not THE Queen, but a queen). Bananarama headlined with Wang Chung and the Chantoozies as guests at Brisbane’s Tivoli theatre.
The 7pm start stretched out closer to 8 due to a few revellers going too hard on the pre-load West Coast Coolers and needing ambulance attention in the door queue. This Bananarama-drama gave us plenty of time for people watching while we waited for the unfortunate (and very embarrassed) obstacle to be cleared.
Gay men and middle aged women across the city had clearly been crimping their hair in anticipation! A few had gone all out with fingerless gloves and crucifix necklaces – more Madonna than Bananarama, but the enthusiasm was commendable.
I was amused to see one woman holding a multi-coloured spinning light thingamabob, like the ones we might buy the kids at a fireworks night. As I silently congratulated her on the festival vibe, I realised it was actually a hand-held fan and probably there to manage her hot flushes.
Later on in the epic women’s toilet queue I would bump into a disoriented lady who claimed to be having a ‘senior moment’ as she looked for the exit door. These are now my people.
But the night wasn’t entirely about ‘remember-when’. The thing about ’80s rockers is that SOME of them turn into pretty groovy old rockers (and when I say ‘old’ I mean probably about 3 years older than me). Take Wang Chung, for example, performing in Australia with special bonus singer/guitarist Gareth Moulton from Cutting Crew.
With many years of experience under their belts, they handled their instruments like an extension of their bodies, owning the stage and loving every minute of audience participation. Wang Chung may not have the street cred of some of their contemporaries, but I’m sure plenty of musicians would happily swap ‘cool and enigmatic’ for a room full of people screaming their names and singing every word of their songs. That can’t be all bad from an artists’ perspective.
Cutting Crew’s Died In Your Arms Tonight was a surprise treat, sounding meatier and far more meaningful with gutsy guitars and hundreds of impassioned backing singers. Who knew?
The Chantoozies more than held their own as well. The original line up of girls now work with session backers (so, no David Reyne ladies) but the 3 dynamic singers belted out a Vegas-worthy set of hits and classics with style. River Deep Mountain High is NOT an easy song to sing and Ally Fowler nailed it, proving they were more than one of those manufactured pop products so popular at the time.
And so to Bananarama. The Tivoli theatre is an intimate venue, which meant loads of dance floor space and an easy view of Keren and Sarah (who now perform sans Siobhan). These days the girls look a lot like some of my 40-something Mum-friends, albeit especially well-groomed. There was friendly banter, cracks about old age and invitations for audience members to jump onstage to do that fabulous Venus dance.
They may not be classically trained singers, exceptional dancers or timeless lyricists but they released so many hits that their set list is like a wedding singer soundtrack – hit after hit after hit. Every person in the crowd was dancing their sensible shoes off (except the ones who were filming the entire show on their phones so they could watch a blurry distorted version of the night the next day).
I have broad tastes in music. I don’t mind a moody acoustic hipster tune or melancholy emo lullaby. I’ll do grunge and house and even metal, within certain limits. I know almost every musical genre has more street cred than ’80s pop, but I’ve stopped apologizing for my ‘guilty pleasures’. Concerts like this are like karaoke with your girlfriends, except that your girlfriends happen to be international superstars. 100% pure fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.