Last night on February 6, 2015 I caught a big concert dubbed “80’s Extravaganza” in the arena at Mohegan Sun Casino. Some of my Facebook friends were curious about it, so I wrote what now appears below to satisfy their curiosity. I never intended to post it here but a fellow music critic told me to post it so I am doing so against my better judgement. The reason I say against my better judgement is because I don’t know the titles of all of the songs done by many of the artists and I was just there as a fan having a fun night out, not taking any notes to write a review later like I normally do when I’m going to do a concert review. Just look at this as a blog entry…
Somebody has to be at the bottom of the bill and open the show and at 80’s Extravaganza it was Club Nouveau. The three members all came out wearing white and stood with the guys on opposite ends of the stage and the woman in the middle. They had a little choreography worked out and were very well rehearsed. That said, I did not know the first two of the three songs they performed. I know they had a lot of hits back in the day so I’m sure they were hits — and the audience really seemed to dig them — but they were lost on me. But then they finished their set with their pumped up cover of Bill Wither’s “Lean On Me” and had just about everyone in the arena dancing their asses off. It should be said that the version of “Lean On Me” that they did was apparently an extended mix, which allowed for plenty of audience participation. Like most of the acts, the trio just sang to pre-recorded music put on by a DJ.
Shannon was next and made a lot of statements like “I blew up the ’80’s,” apparently trying to paint herself as the greatest thing since the invention of the microwave oven. (I’m surprised she didn’t try to take credit for that, too.) I think much of what she said was in jest but I’m sure some was ego, too. I didn’t know the first two songs she did at all, but everyone knew the third one, “Let The Music Play,” which she said went to number one in every country in the world. And that was the final song of her three song set.
Another thing — when Shannon first came out she said she was supposed to have her dancers with her, that they were backstage and if they didn’t get up there immediately they were fired… Then she did the first song without the dancers. Just as the second song was starting, some seemingly random people from the audience were sent out on stage to dance. I think one of them was a kid, but Lisa Lisa had some dancers, too, so maybe the kid was with her. My memory is awful, I know.
At this point I was getting anxious, worrying that they were only going to let all of the artists do three songs each, which would’ve sucked because I wanted more than three songs from Debbie Gibson. But…
Tiffany did four songs. The first was “I Saw Him Standing There,” which had the audience singing along cheerfully. Tiffany’s voice sounded very different than it did when she was a tween. She’s a much better singer with a soulful tone now. The second song she did was the ballad “Could’ve Been,” which made me cry once or twice back in the day but not last night. Her third song was another ballad, but I didn’t recognize it. Looking at Wiki, I think it might’ve been “Feelings Are Forever” but I’m really not sure. And then she did her fourth and final song: “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Everyone was singing along to that one. Even I was. I should also mention that they played the music videos for her songs while she was singing them. It was weird to look up and see her at 16 or however old she was back then and then see her now. Made me feel really old.
Lisa Lisa really got the audience excited and knew how to work the crowd. She did four or five songs but the only two I knew were “Head To Toe” and “Lost In Emotion,” both of which had everyone singing along.
Andy Bell is the singer from Erasure. I don’t know why he didn’t bring keyboardist/musician Vince Clarke with him because they do still exist as Erasure and put out a really morbid but fun Christmas album a couple of years ago. Anyway, Andy lost half of the audience the second he walked out on stage. You see, he wasn’t wearing any pants. There was something there, maybe really short shorts or short boxer shorts, all I know was they were gold. Otherwise, he was wearing a red T-shirt and a woman’s tuxedo jacket with sparkles all over it… Although I wasn’t into them back in the day, I knew Erasure was more of an alternative pop group than a mainstream one but I had no idea that Andy would come out on stage looking like that. And neither did anybody else. But, hey, to each his own. I know he’s a big LGBT icon and I’m really not criticizing his attire, just saying what it consisted of. (I should also mention that he had three female dancers with angel wings and lots of black make up around their eyes, which kind of made them look like zombie angels. They were pretty cool though.) As for his voice, he sang the powerful stuff extremely well. But he does quite a bit of falsetto and there were a few times where his voice cracked, just fell right out from under him. Sounded that way to me anyway. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with any of their songs to tell you what he did. I read the Erasure wiki page hoping to figure out what some of them were but I really couldn’t be sure about any of them.
Remember when Debbie Gibson was insisting on being called Deborah Gibson for a while there? Well, apparently she’s said to hell with that and decided to embrace her existence as Debbie Gibson and that’s a wonderful thing if you ask me. And I must say that she does not look like she’s aged much since the ’80’s. Oh, she’s a woman, not a kid, sure, but she looks all of 25. Gorgeous! And her voice is wonderful as ever. She opened with “Out of The Blue” if memory serves me correctly. Then she did a mash up sort of thing where she did two thirds of “Shake Your Love” then the second half of “Electric Youth.” It should be mentioned that Debbie played piano for the next two songs, the ballads, and she also had a very talented electric violinist. Most of the artists were just singing to pre-recorded music, so it was nice for Debbie to actually play an instrument. The first ballad was “Foolish Beat,” which she did about three quarters of, just barely shortening the ending and going into “Lost in Your Eyes,” which she performed entirely. Then she did a ten minute medley of songs by other ’80’s artists. One of the songs included was “Like A Virgin.” I can’t remember what else was there, but at least 9 other songs. And the medley flowed really well. It was obviously something she’d put a lot of thought into, not whipped together at the last minute. Then she finished with “Only In My Dreams.”
Berlin were the first and only band of the evening. While there were some pre-recorded backing vocals, the drums and keyboards were performed live. They were billed as Terri Nunn and Berlin, which baffled me because that’s kind of like saying Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran. It’s kind of a given that you’re going to get Simon Le Bon if you get Duran Duran. Likewise, it wouldn’t be Berlin without Terri Nunn. Anyway, they were fantastic, opening their set with “No More Words.” Then they did a few songs I didn’t know which were followed by a new(ish) song, “Animal,” which had a provocative music video that played while they performed the song. Some guy behind me got pissed and yelled “We’ve got kids here!” So, kudos to Berlin for effectively shocking the audience whereas Andy Bell just kind of perplexed everyone. Kudos also to Berlin for doing a new song. They were the only artist of the night to do new material. Not surprisingly, they closed their set with “Take My Breath Away,” which sounded fantastic live, Terri walking through the crowd on the floor as she performed it.
I was so impressed with Berlin that I bought their latest album Animal signed by Terri after the show. It was only 15 bucks, so a good deal. And the album is fantastic. Not a single bad song on it, actually. Maybe I’ll do a rewind review of it.
THE POINTER SISTERS
The Pointer Sisters were the big headliner and they were superb as they belted out hits like “Jump (For My Love),” “Slow Hand,” “Neutron Dance” and “I’m So Excited.” There was at least one other song, which they opened with, but I didn’t recognize it. There might have been another song at the end, too, but I don’t think so because my mother and I both thought their set was a little short compared to Berlin and Debbie Gibson. Reading their Wiki page just now, I’m surprised nobody has made a movie about The Pointer Sisters yet. Two of the three we saw last night are founding members, but originally there were four of them and two of them are no longer in the group. And the one who is the third member in the group now has only been a member since 2009. Their Wiki page has everything for a great movie — cancer, cocaine, line up changes, etc. I guess the fact that they performed at all last night, even if their set was a little short, was a bit of a triumph. Then again, the fact that most of these artists performed last night was a triumph. I’m sure many of these people work day jobs now and only feel truly alive when they get called up to do one of these type of shows.