Monday, August 27, 2018

Review of The Mowgli's' "I Was Starting to Wonder"

Where is my head at? Posted this Sunday afternoon on the Sputnik Music website (where it received perhaps the stupidest comment I've ever seen), and forgot to post it here. But better late than never. To quote the great James Tiberius Kirk, "Here it comes."

Review Summary: More happy vibes and good times from this gentle California sextet.

The Mowgli's don't get a lot of love on Sputnik Music. This is unfortunate, because I think they have something to offer, namely happy music and good feelings. They're currently operating as a 6-piece band (at one time, they had as many as ten members), and as best I can tell, they were recently dropped by their record label. None of this has done anything to dampen their cheerfulness, though. They're still an upbeat Los Angeles band with a San Francisco hippy vibe. 

I Was Starting to Wonder is their latest EP. It features four songs, two of which were previously released as singles. The general atmosphere here is mostly one of relaxed jubilation. Two of the songs, "I Feel Good About This" and "Real Good Life", share similar sentiments. They're both about happy love relationships that seem to be working for all involved. In between these two are "Kansas City", a song where lead singer Colin Louis Dieden sings about missing his home town (especially as he's recently come to realize that even though he's moved away, he still has the same old issues to work through) and "Best of Us", the one song here about a relationship that might not be the healthiest (although it's too soon to tell). This last one is the least interesting of the album's four songs.

The Mowgli's' sound is nothing new here. As on their previous work, it's driven by multi-person (including both male and female) vocals and jangly guitars. They're like a mixture of The Cowsills, Len and Grouplove.

I realize accept that this isn't the deepest band around, and that their carefree tendencies and simplistic lyrics bother some people. I like a bit of darkness in music myself, and I wouldn't want for every band to sound like them. On the other hand, not all music needs to make you want to kill yourself either. I think there's room in music for both bleakness and frivolity. 

The bottom line is this -- if you've always hated this band, this EP won't make you like them any better. There's nothing groundbreaking here, and their basic sound is the same as it's always been. But if you've liked their previous work, you'll like this too. I have, and I do.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review of Red Lama's "Motions"

I dropped this wee little mini-review of the Sputnik Music website about an hour ago.

Review Summary: Modern day beatnik music.

Motions is the second LP by the 7-piece Danish psychedelic rock band Red Lama. They're a pretty big thing in their native Copenhagen, although as best I can tell, they're still relatively unknown internationally. I've heard that they're an excellent live band, and that their initial LP, 2016's Dreams Are Free was pretty well received. They formed in 2011, although they're still pretty young-looking, at least to these jaded eyes. Their overall sound was described by's Alexsi Pertola as "trippy and ambient".

The sound on Motions reminds me of a combination of The Animals during their psychedelic period, and Echo & The Bunnymen around the time of their Porcupine album. Most of the album's nine tracks are either slow or mid-tempo, leaving the band plenty of room to layer their music and build atmosphere. There are lots of strange, acid-trip echoes and effects here, and bursts of distorted guitar, as well as some moody clarinet. There's also a good deal of excellent hand percussion throughout -- this is modern-day beatnik music. However, as much as I like the various guitars, flutes, etc., the band's strongest asset may well be vocalist Johannes Havemann Kissov Linnet. His voice is strong, rich and very emotive, and helps to keep the music consistently interesting. 

Motions is a good album for people who like their music heavily influenced by late '60s to early '70s psychedelica, but with modern-day production values. Just light some incense, lie back, and see where the music takes you.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Friday, August 17, 2018

Review of 3.2's "The Rules Have Changed"

I posted this just a few minutes ago on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: This album serves as a fitting tribute to the late Keith Emerson.

By the late 1980's, Emerson, Lake & Palmer were more than a decade away from the period of their greatest success. They had released a few albums in the late 1970's, and although they still sold reasonably well, neither the critics nor the public were especially thrilled by them. After taking a break for half a decade or so, in the mid-'80s, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were ready to reunite. Carl Palmer, however, was busy drumming with Asia. So Emerson and Lake hooked up with Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell for one album as Emerson, Lake & Powell, and broke up shortly thereafter. At this point, Emerson and Palmer were keen to have another go at ELP, but this time it was Greg Lake who either wasn't interested or wasn't available. Not to be discouraged, however, Carl Palmer had come across a musician he was impressed with, California multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry. He introduced Berry to Keith Emerson, who was likewise dazzled by Berry's talents. So the trio formed a band and named it "3" (although some insisted in referring to it as "Emerson, Berry & Palmer").

3 decided to change up the ELP formula a bit, and to focus on shorter, more radio-friendly songs. Their one album together, To the Power of Three, did manage to generate one fairly successful single, "Talkin' Bout". But the overall reviews were mixed, and Emerson found himself savaged by certain fans and critics who just couldn't accept the idea of one of their prog-rock heroes trying to move in a more pop-friendly direction. (There was also some unfortunate blowback about the live band's decision to work with a female backup singer). After touring to support the album, 3 broke up, and it seemed that this was the end of the 3 project.

Cut to 2015, when Emerson listened to an upcoming 3 live album from their 1988 tour that was being released by the record company. Emerson was pleased with how good the band sounded together, and contacted Berry (with whom he had remained friends over the years). Berry suggested getting together for another 3 album, and much to his surprise, Emerson was interested. Palmer was off at this time working on other projects, but Berry and Emerson began throwing around some ideas, and collaborating long distance on some music. Then came the tragic day in early 2016 when Keith Emerson took his own life, and once again, it seemed that a new 3 album would never see the light of day. After a period of mourning, however, Berry became inspired, and began to complete the work that he and Emerson had begun. The result is The Rules Have Changed. Released under the name 3.2, it features Berry singing and playing all of the instruments, on music that was mostly written with (and partially arranged by) Keith Emerson. It may be that these are the last new compositions we'll ever hear by one of the greatest and most highly acclaimed progressive rock keyboardists who ever lived.

I'll admit that before the album came out, I wasn't sure what to expect here. I wasn't really familiar with Berry or his work, and being something of a skeptic, I wasn't certain whether or not this was a case of someone trying to cash in on the popularity of an iconic musician who is no longer with us. After listening to the album, however, one thing became clear -- The Rules Have Changed is a sincere and fitting tribute to Keith Emerson. Berry obviously admired and had a great affection for the older synthesist who apparently served as something of a mentor to him, and this album is his way of honoring an old and deeply missed friend.

Having said that, I can't say it's a perfect album. I don't love Berry as a vocalist. He has one of those powerful voices that insures that he'll always find work as a rock singer, but his voice, while competent, isn't particularly beautiful. This is especially true when you make the inevitable comparison with Greg Lake, who I've always felt had one of the most pleasing voices in rock history. On the other hand, as an instrumentalist, Berry brings a lot to the table. And while he's mostly known as a guitarist, perhaps the most impressive thing about this LP is Berry's ability to mimic Emerson's keyboard style. The playing here is sometimes grand, sometimes bombastic, but it's always recognizably Emerson-esque. Berry stated in an interview that once he began recording, he felt as though he was channeling his old friend, and with one listen you can hear what he means.

The songwriting is pretty good throughout. While it doesn't match the best work of ELP, it is certainly credible prog rock, which I would equate with some of the music of Asia in terms of sound and overall quality. There are only eight tracks here, but each of them has its charms. My favorite is "Powerful Man", which is one of two singles released from the album. This one was written entirely by Berry, but it sounds like something Emerson might have composed, thanks to Berry's use of a chunky keyboard theme throughout. Other highlights include the opening track, "One By One", which opens with a majestic piano intro, and "Our Bond", a track that Berry wrote after Emerson's death. This one includes little snippets of some of the highlights of Emerson's career, including pieces of "Hoedown", "Fanfare for the Common Man", and "Desde La Vida", the one extended track from the first 3 album. 

I'm sure that this album is a one-off -- there won't be a 3.3. However, many Keith Emerson fans will be glad for the work that Berry put in on this LP, to give us an idea of some of the music that Emerson was working on in his last days. It might even whet their appetite to check out some of Berry's other work. Either way, The Rules Have Changed ends the 3 project on an appropriately high note.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review of Jeremy Gilchrist's "Causality"

I dropped this review a few minutes ago on the Sputnik Music website.

The day I put together my notes for this review, I got an email from bandcamp that Jeremy's new EP Threaded was being released the next day. Figures, right? Serves me right for waiting so long to review this one.

The rock opera referenced in the review is, of course, Tom Cavanagh's brilliant The Pisces Rock Opera.

Anyway, here's the review:

Review Summary: This album uses stark alternative acoustic music to weave together themes of social despair with stories of science fiction and time travel.

Jeremy Gilchrist is an interesting person. He's a weather enthusiast, who's never happier than when he's chasing down a storm, or stuck in the middle of a hurricane or a blizzard. He's lived in various locations up and down the East Coast of the U.S., finally landing in tiny Winooski, Vermont. He's been a character in another artist's rock opera, where he's described as someone who will "sing you songs of death, and laugh maniacally." Yet he's also an idealist. Most importantly, at least as far as this site is concerned, he's a talented indie musician whose influences include Roger Waters, Dave Matthews and Neil Young. But if I had to try to really encapsulate his style in a single sentence, I'd say that he sounds like a sparser, more minimalistic version of The Decemberists.

Causality is Gilchrist's third full-length album, and it's his best. It weaves together feelings of social despair and hopes for a better future with themes of science fiction and time travel, ending up with what an episode of Rick and Morty might sound like if it was translated into folk music. The songs are mostly slow- to mid-tempo, and quite heartfelt. There's an earnestness to them you can't help but love.

The best track on the album by far is "Letter from the 21st". This song takes the form of a musical missive to future generations, apologizing for the shortcomings of our current times, hoping that they've learned from our mistakes, and wishing he could be there to share in a better future. The song is quiet, and rapturously beautiful. Although the lyrics are sarcastic in places ("Sorry you can't drink money/It suited us just fine"), and filled with regret, there's an underlying sweetness to it. The underlying sentiment is that the world can get better, even though the artist believes that he won't be there to see it. It's a stunning achievement.

Other noteworthy numbers include "The Great Escape", a darker number where Gilchrist lets loose just a little with his own unique style of musicality (the songs-of-death-and-maniacal-laughter Gilchrist described in the aforementioned rock opera), and "Time Traveler", a more upbeat track that references multiverses, time machines and rearranged time lines.

Causality is as strong an example of independent alternative folk music as I could possibly recommend to you. It's an album that deserves exposure to a much wider audience.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Review of Blondie's "No Exit"

I posted this review earlier this evening on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: While this might not be an album for the ages, it's the LP that brought Blondie back to life.

After a series of successful albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Blondie hit the skids with their 1982 release, The Hunter. It was a critical and commercial failure. Things went downhill from there. Guitarist Chris Stein was diagnosed with pemphigus, a life-threatening autoimmune disease. The band cancelled a scheduled European tour in August of 1982, and announced their official breakup three months later. Frontwoman Deborah Harry spent the next few years concentrating on her solo career (with mixed results), working on an acting career (again, with mixed results), and attempting to nurse Stein, who was her partner at the time, back to health. The other band members scattered to work on various projects of their own, and as the years passed, it seemed as if the world forgot about Blondie.

Times change, though, and by the late 1990s, Blondie had begun to be fondly remembered by many. In 1998, Athens, Georgia rockers The B-52's released a single called "Debbie", in tribute to Harry. And that same year, Stein and Harry, no longer a couple, but still good friends, reunited with keyboard player Jimmy Destri and drummer Clem Burke to begin working on a comeback album. The result was No Exit. Released in February of 1999, this LP reignited the band's career. It charted across the world, reaching #18 on the charts in the U.S., and #3 in the UK. It also went Gold in the UK, a falloff from the Blondie's glory days, but still not bad for a band that had been out of the public eye for 17 years.

There are 14 tracks on No Exit, which span a variety of genres, including pop, reggae, country and hip-hop. The overall mood of the LP is playful, and somewhat tongue in cheek. The band sounds as if they're having a wonderful time playing together again, and their mood is infectious.

Much of the prosperity of the album can be credited to its lead single, "Maria". It's a bit of catchy ear candy -- likable enough, but far from the band's best song. Nevertheless, it did pretty well for itself, going Gold in the UK (and reaching #1 on the charts) and reaching Platinum status in Germany. It was less successful in the U.S., rising only as high as # 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, although it did hit #9 on the Billboard Dance chart. Another single, "Nothing Is Real But the Girl", also charted in the UK.

It's the album's deep cuts, though, that make No Exit the fun ride that it is. The title track, which Rolling Stone labelled "gothic hip-hop", (and which was named after an existentialist play by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre) finds Harry trading raps with special guest star Coolio. The song plays at being dark ("Bye bye to another life"), but doesn't really take itself all that seriously. A couple of the other tracks come across as significantly softer -- "Forgive and Forget" is a wistful, romantic number that Harry seems to sing from the viewpoint of a Siren, while "Night Wind Sent" manages to be both poetic and flippant at the same time. "The Dream's Lost on Me", on the other hand, is an exaggerated country waltz, that finds Harry drawling, "I come out shootin' when trouble comes knockin'/I greet bad news by sending it walkin' ".

My favorite track on the album, though, is "Under the Gun", which sounds like a Hollywood Western. It's a song dedicated to the late musician Jeffrey Lee Pierce, who was somewhat of a protege of Harry and Stein. The song treats Pierce as a tragic Western hero, referring to him at various times as "Desperado", "Restless Shadow" and "El Diablo", and it has arguably some of the best lyrics on the album: "So sad you loved in vain/My comrades lost in battle/The music wars are done from London to Seattle/We all pay to play and all our yesterdays are starting over." 

If The Hunter is the album that almost killed Blondie, No Exit is the one that brought them back to life. Nearly 20 years later, the band is still ongoing, thanks in no small part to the success of this LP. While it's not necessarily an album for the ages, it is a very good Blondie album.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lost 80's 2018 Tour

We had tickets last night for the Long Island stop of the Lost 80's Tour, another multi-band nostalgia tour making its way around the country this summer.

Now lately, I know that my live show posts have been Russian novels. So I'm going to try to hold this one to a Russian novelette. I'm thinking, Tolstoy?

If you read my post about the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium last weekend, you might remember that before the show even started, my daughter had texted me about getting her upstate for her little sister's Sweet Sixteen birthday party. Well, that happened this weekend. We drove all night Thursday night to get her up there (and Denise cancelled going to see The Alarm at the Boulton Center and sitting in front row seats with her friend Tim in order to do this -- what a great Mom!).

Then we drove back home all day Friday (which involved a brief stop at a motel in Herkimer that was kind enough to allow us to check in at 11 in the morning, but neglected to mention that they'd be doing construction on the room two rooms away from ours. Bang! Bang! Saw! Saw!). We got home at midnight on Friday.

By 9AM Saturday, I had to be back out in Little Neck for a monthly staff meeting for my job. (I've been trying to talk our Executive Director into having the meetings at midnight every other month, so that once in awhile, we'd be having them during my kind of hours, but so far, no luck on that.) Then I shot back home to Patchogue to catch a few hours of sleep, before going back out to the Tilles Center for tonight's show. (Poor Denise was so wiped that she slept until 11 on Saturday, then laid back down for a nap with me at 2).

You'd have thought I'd be in no shape for this show. But actually, I did better than I expected. Some of my recent kvetching on here (about the Erasure show, and the Forest Hills show) has made me hyper-aware that for me to enjoy a show, I really have to be rested. So in spite of the torturous schedule this weekend, I made sure I had plenty of sleep on Friday night and during the day on Saturday. And the Tilles Center is actually one of the easier venues for me to get into -- there are no long walks involved, and no sitting outdoors in the heat -- so I was in better shape than I had any right to expect.

The Tilles Center is kind of a funny place for a show like this. It's one of the two major entertainment arenas on Long Island located on a college campus (at C.W. Post, in Greenlawn. The other is The Staller Center at SUNY Stony Brook). And while they'll have the occasional rock or popular music show like this one, there are also things there like Broadway-style musicals, operas, ballets, classical music concerts, etc. The last time I was there was a few years ago, when I took my son to see Evil Dead: The Musical. (We sat upfront in the "splatter" section, but my son was disappointed that we didn't really get any gore on us.) And the time before that was before our kids had even moved in with us, when Denise and I saw Celtic Woman there. Even their rock shows all involve older bands. Their upcoming scheduled includes people like Pat Benatar, Roy Orbison (he's still alive? Good for him!), Toto, and Dennis DeYoung of Styx. So it's kind of a staid venue. Don't expect any crowd surfing there.

Prior to the show, we met a couple of Denise's friends from her WLIR Facebook group, Tina and Cindy. Tina is a photography enthusiast, and I'm hoping to collaborate on some shows with her, maybe for Rich Branciforte at Good Times. Tina and Cindy had seats in the very first row, and the first row tonight involved sitting in a folding chair up so close to the stage that your knees touched the stage. This was definite neck-bending territory. Denise and I were also pretty close to the stage, about eight rows further back (in the third row of actual non-folding-chair seats).

The lineup for the Lost 80's tour has been fluctuating a little bit. A lot of Denise's friends saw the show in Coney Island on Friday night, and their lineup had included the six bands we were going to see, plus Annabella of Bow Wow Wow (who must have jumped ship from the Retro Futura Tour -- traitor!), and The Romantics (who I couldn't care less about, except that it would have been pretty cool to hear them sing "What I Like About You". But oh well.) Really, the main reason I wanted to be at this show was for A Flock of Seagulls. I always felt that they were a tragically undervalued '80s band. Those first two albums were as good as anything that came out during the decade, and the third one, The Story of a Young Heart, was pretty strong too. Then Paul Reynolds, their guitarist, left the band, and their fourth album was the most godawful piece of crap you've ever heard! But let's not talk about that.)

The first band up was Nu Shooz. They were a little bit of an odd choice for this tour, as all of the other bands on the bill were part of the new wave movement. Nu Shooz, on the other hand, was an R&B-tinged dance band that revolved around the husband-wife team of John Smith and Valerie Day. They're from Portland, OR, but they mentioned during their set how they hold New York mostly responsible for the fact that they had a music career -- their music was getting a little airplay in the Pacific Northwest, but it wasn't until they started getting some heavy play in the dance halls of Manhattan that they got a legitimate record deal. They started out with like 12 members back in the '80s, but now it's just Smith and Day.

A couple of things here. I actually liked these guys somewhat back in the '80s, and in fact, they were only band on this bill that I ever owned an album from other than Flock. (And truth-be-told, I found Valerie to be quite hot back in the day.) So I was kind of psyched to see them.

Their career is a little bit of a mixed bag now. On the one hand, it's just the two of them, and unlike the Retro Futura Tour, instead of having a common backing band for the opening acts, they played with just an acoustic guitar and a backing track. They were very loungy looking, wearing quite a few sequins between the two of them. They kind of reminded me of Harper Finkel's parents on The Wizards of Waverly Place show. In fact, their appearance led me to joke about intra-tour politics with Denise, wondering aloud if they and the other opening bands were allowed to talk to Flock of Seagulls. (Denise thought probably not). On the other hand, at least they still have a career in some capacity. And as I was about to find out, Day still has a hell of a voice.

Anyway, they started their 3-song set with "Point of No Return", one of their two biggest hits. I was a little shocked that Denise was unfamiliar with it (as she usually knows all of the songs at these shows), but then I realized that this was the one band on this bill that wasn't really a WLIR band, they were a dance band. I was never a dance kid, but I was an MTV kid, and they used to get a ton of airplay on MTV. They followed "Point" with "Should I Say Yes?", a song I wasn't familiar with, then closed with their big hit, "I Can't Wait". (Odds are you know this song. I'd try to bring it back to you, but the lyrics won't help -- it's all about the instrumental chorus, and my writing "ba ba ba BA ba bababa/ba ba ba BA baba" probably wouldn't help, would it?). The crowd gave them a pretty good reception, especially given that it was largely a WLIR crowd. And as I mentioned, especially on "I Can't Wait", Day really let loose with her voice and blew the crowd away. I was happy for them.

In between sets, I noticed that although the room was only half full, there were multiple celebrities in the audience. (Or their lookalikes, anyway). Slash from Guns N' Roses was there (complete with top hat), and I think I saw Bernie Sanders sort of half-snoozing in the corner of the row behind me.

Before the next band started, the emcee introduced former WLIR deejay Larry the Duck, and for those of us who loved WLIR/WDRE, this was almost as good as having another band there. Larry pretty much emceed the rest of the show.

The next act was billed as Farrington and Mann, although Larry introduced them by their "forbidden" name, When In Rome. When in Rome was essentially a one-hit wonder that consisted of vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann and keyboardist Michael Floreale, a trio of Brits. They broke up in 1990, when the other two fired Floreale. Then in 2006, Floreale formed his own version of When in Rome, and started touring. In 2009, Farrington and Mann got back together and sued him for the name. Hyjinx ensued. Nowadays, there are two working versions of the band, Farrington and Mann (who are also sometimes known as When in Rome UK), and When in Rome II (or sometimes, simply When in Rome) for the Floreale version of the band. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through for one hit, but it's one of those hits that's actually quite popular with new-wave fans.

Anyway, they came out as a 4-piece band, which included Farrington and Mann, plus a synthesist and an electronic percussionist. At the start of their set, some twit from backstage threw out a bunch of beach balls, which I always love, because it allows my pathetic PTSD ass to focus on not getting hit in the face with a beach ball instead of enjoying the music. Happily, by the end of their set, the ushers had impounded them all. Farrington and Mann only played two songs. First was "Heaven Knows", which was a minor hit on the U.S. dance charts in 1989. Then, they played the first few chords of their big hit, "The Promise", and the crowd leaped to its feet in joy, crying as one, "My lost youth! You're back!"

It was a little hard to hear Farrington. (Or was it Mann? The one with the lower voice, anyway), but the crowd didn't care, and I really didn't either. I knew this song, even though before we bought these tickets, I couldn't have told you whose song it was if you'd have put a gun to my head. (Whenever we get tickets for one of these kinds of shows, I'm always asking Denise, "OK, which song did these guys do, again?"). Anyway, good song, and off shuffled When Farrington and Mann Is In Rome, or whoever.

Next up, a tall, single fellow came out onto the stage and picked up his guitar, only to look around in vain for the rest of his band. This was Bill Wadham. He looked pretty cool, wearing a full-length peacoat. Then the rest of his 6-piece group joined him, and my first reaction was "Oh, dear!"

This was Animotion. The entire band was dressed in black, and some of them looked worse for the wear. The bass player resembled the little guy who used to be the sidekick in The Benny Hill Show. And the female co-lead vocalist had just had a horrible accident backstage involving electricity. She must have, given her hair. It was a gray sordid mess, half Grandmama Adams and half Phyllis Diller. Larry the Duck came out and muttered something about suffering a group hug backstage. (As I got to experience the somewhat bawdy personality of Astrid Plane, the aforementioned vocalist, I'm fairly certain he meant to say that he had just been molested.) Larry introduced them as a Los Angeles band, although Ms. Plane is clearly a British ex-pat.

Plane was quite a randy gal, teasing between songs that she'd had a lovely hot stone massage at her hotel today, but, "I had to take off all me clothes, though!"). I know that Tina and Cindy in the front row were standing for her entire set. They had to be. It was the only way to avoid looking right up Plane's dress.

Much to my surprise, given my initial shock at the band's appearance, they were really good, and very high-energy. And while I may have mocked Plane's appearance some, her voice is still killer. (Of course, I haven't aged a day since the '80s myself. My hair is still blonde, and if my children try to tell you it's gray, I denounce them for the liars they are. It's blonde. It only looks gray because of the way the light hits it. And I can rock out, too. As long as I get my nap first.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, Animotion. They blazed through a couple of their songs, "Let Him Go", and "I Engineer". Then they were told they had a little time to sneak in an extra song. (And believe me, I'm going to come back to this later when I discuss whoever was running the show backstage). So they improvised a fun little version of the Soft Cell's "Tainted Love". (Don't try to tell me that Soft Cell actually borrowed it from somebody else. We're at an '80s show, damn it! It's a Soft Cell song!) At this point, some woman in the next section started screaming, "Obsession"! "Obsession!" (as if this band was going to leave the stage without doing their single biggest hit.) And amazingly (to some people), the band closed with their biggest hit, "Obsession". This got the whole room up and moving again. (Except for me. I like to relax when I listen to my music. Oh, and also except for Bernie Sanders behind me. He did briefly wake up for this song, though.)

Band number four was another British band who Denise likes a lot, Naked Eyes. They were initially a duo, comprising Pete Byrne on vocals and Rob Fisher on keyboards. Unfortunately, Fisher died of cancer in 1999 at just 42 years old. So Naked Eyes is now Byrne singing and playing guitar, with a 3-piece backing band.

As they took the stage, Byrne turned out to be Billy-Idol-sized, with the requisite British sneer. He led his band through a very well received 4-song set, that finished with his two biggest hits, "Promises, Promises", and his synthed-up version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me". He did a good job, although I commented to Denise afterwards that his songs were much less vocally challenging than the ones sung by Valerie Day or Astrid Plane -- if this were figure skating, I would have deducted a point for difficulty. But the crowd loved it, as did Denise, who danced non-stop through every set except for parts of Nu Shooz's set.

At this point, I had developed a whole mythology about the backstage politics of this tour. I figured that Nu Shooz and Farrington and Mann aren't allowed to talk to Mike Score of Flock of Seagulls, and Animotion isn't even allowed to stay at the same hotel, since Astrid Plane probably scares the crap out of him. Pete Byrne is allowed to speak briefly to him, as long as he averts his eyes, and brings Score his orange juice at breakfast in the morning. Only Wang Chung are big enough stars to actually hang with him. (I amuse myself with these little fantasies, anyway.)

In between sets, three more of Denise friends from the WLIR group, Lee Ann, Roberta and Natalie found us, and came over for a chat and a couple of group photos. (Denise is pretty easy to spot in a crowd these days, as she currently sports Bubblegum-Pink hair.)  They had been at the show in Coney Island the night before, although traffic caused them to miss the first couple of bands. They said that Wang Chung had been great the night before, but that Score's vocals sounded pretty rough. We told them about Cindy Wilson's vocal problems at last week's Forest Hills show. I was really hoping that Score's problems had just been due to the heat and humidity at the outdoor venue, as of course, they were the band I came to see.

Next was Wang Chung. Wang Chung is one of those bands that I sort of always put in the same category as Culture Club. I liked a couple of their songs, but would never have come to see them on their own (although it was cool to see them in a multi-band setting like this). They came out as a 4-piece, although I couldn't really tell you how many of them are original band members. The one guy I could see clearly through the crowd was tallish, and looked kind of like a gray-haired Alan Rickman, in character as Severus Snape.

I have to say, they were in really good form for their 4-song set. They opened with "Let's Go", a song that Denise was familiar with, although I wasn't. They then went into one of the two Wang Chung I do know, the S&M-infused "Dance Hall Days". (I say S&M-infused because of the lyrics -- he's always grabbing his baby by various body parts and making her do stuff. What's up with that?"). They then did an unusual choice (that I was prepared for because I've been following their setlist on, a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". At the end of the song, they morphed this into their single biggest hit, by intoning, "Girls just wanna have fun/Girls just wanna Wang Chung", and going directly into "Everybody Have Fun Tonight". (I'm pretty sure that "everybody Wang Chung" means the same thing as "Turning Japanese, I think I'm Turning Japanese" -- both pretty un-p.c. masturbation references, except that luckily for them, the p.c. police are too involved in other things to hunt down largely obscure-to-the-modern-popular-culture 80's bands.) In any event, I suspect if you polled the crowd, many would have named this as their high point of the night.

Next up was A Flock of Seagulls. I recently reviewed their new orchestral album, Ascension, which featured all four of the original members. For this tour, however, it's basically Mike Score and three other gulls. (He's like Jonathan Livingston Seagull -- he went on to train new young flocks). Now for most of the tour, Flock has been using a 6-song set, which added "Modern Love Is Automatic" to their five best-known songs. Unfortunately, on this night, the person who was running the show screwed up big time. The Tilles Center obviously had a hard 11PM end time, and partially because the tour manager had thrown Animotion an extra song, Flock had to cut their set down to four songs, leaving out "Automatic", plus (!!!) "Telecommunication"! Thanks a bunch, butthead!

Anyway, Flock came out, and while I wouldn't say Score's voice was amazing, it was nowhere near as bad as I had feared (and not even approaching Cindy Wilson territory). They opened with "The More You Live, the More You Love", a song I've always loved (from their Story of a Young Heart album), then moved on to my favorite Flock song of all, "Space Age Love Song". (I missed Paul Reynolds' guitar on this one, but the current guitarist, whose name, I think, is Gord Deppe, did an OK job on it.) They finished out with what are probably their two best-known songs, "I Ran (So Far Away)" and "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)". And while I missed "Telecommunication", if they had to cut one of their top five songs, they made the right choice -- these were the four I most wanted to hear.

The crowd filed out in a happy mood. If I had to guess, I'd say that the crowd favorite of the evening was probably Wang Chung, although Flock was certainly well received also. For myself, Flock was far-and-away my favorite, and actually, my second favorite was Nu Shooz. But everybody had a pretty good set tonight. In general, my only criticisms were: 1. The time screw-up that caused Flock to have to cut their set short. Luckily, I saw Flock of Seagulls back in the '80s at the Beacon Theater, or I'd have been really disappointed; and 2. While the sound in general was pretty good tonight, on several occasions, I thought the bass overwhelmed the mix too much and drowned out some of the synthesizers. But these were minor criticisms. I certainly enjoyed the show. I'd rank it ahead of this year's Retro Futura tour, although it wasn't quite as good as last year's Retro Futura show. (It's hard to compete with "Safety Dance").

According to the Duckmeister, Tilles Center has already booked next year's Lost 80's Tour, and pending the lineup, I'd definitely come back.

(OK, so this was still Russian-novel length. but at least this time, most of it was actually about the show.)

Ciao, people!