Those of us who grew up and came of age in the 1980s probably never dreamed that the decade and all things associated with it would one day wind up being the subject of such warm, nostalgic memories. While styles, fashions and movies from the '80s are fondly remembered, it's the wide array of music that blossomed during the memorable era that's most loved and revered. So, it's no wonder that the '80s-themed "Replay America" tour making its way across the country is attracting crowds as varied in age as teenagers just now discovering the music their parents grew up on, to those who never stopped loving the tunes that made up the soundtrack to their adolescences. [Text by Gabe, photos by Tracy.]
Having one of the decade's most successful and popular bands — the Go-Go's — anchoring the impressive multi-act lineup certainly doesn't hurt the package tour's appeal. The most successful all-female rock band of all time has enjoyed a long and fruitful tenure, racking up plenty of hits along the way. Fronted by Belinda Carlisle, who herself has enjoyed a healthy career as a solo artist, the five-piece band magnificently transformed a nearly-sold out house to the days of frilly mini-skirts and piano neckties. Taking the stage after three openers (more on them later), the band opened their set a little after 9 p.m. with one of their biggest smash hits, "Vacation." In an instant, the hall was zoomed back to a time when Go-Go's ruled the airwaves and were mainstays on every music video show on the planet. Featuring original members from their long-standing lineup (guitarists Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin and drummer Gina Schock, with bassist Kathy Valentine replaced by new addition Abby Travis), the ladies treated the audience to a 70-minute set chock full of hits and deep album cuts ("How Much More," "Skidmarks on My Heart"). They even dug into Carlisle's solo output, performing her 1986 hit "Mad About You," and blew the dust off of Wiedlin's 1983 collaboration with quirky duo Sparks, the danceable "Cool Places."
Inviting audience members onstage to dance along during their cover of 1960s dance hit "Cool Jerk" was another highlight but the evening's strongest roar and ovation came when the band broke into the all-too-familiar jangly chords that open their breakthrough single, 1981's "Our Lips Are Sealed".
The band's charisma and chemistry broke through loudly and clearly and it was evident that Go-Go's still know how to deliver solid pop tunes and entertain a crowd.
Opening the evening with a brief three-song set was Naked Eyes (now reduced to lead singer Pete Byrne alone; fellow founding member Rob Fisher passed away in the late '90s). Fronting a five-piece that would provide musical accompaniment for all three openers, Byrne quickly burned his way through his band's biggest hits, winding up with the best known Naked Eyes song, their cover of the Burt Bacharach-penned tune "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," which became a massive sing-a-long for virtually everyone in attendance.
Martha Davis, lead chanteuse of California New Wave Band The Motels, was next on the schedule. Davis has lost nothing of the brooding, emotive vocal style that catapulted her and her band into constant MTV rotation. One of the most unique and distinctive singers of the decade in which she reached her highest successes, Davis is still in top form vocally. Her 30-minute set seemed to fly by as she breezed her way through hits "Suddenly Last Summer" and "Take The L" with confidence and passion. Ending her all-too-brief set with the band's undisputed classic, "Only The Lonely," featuring tasty horn work from original Motel, sax wailer Marty Jourard, Davis more that staked her piece of 80's music clout with this unforgettable ballad. Truth be told, it would have been no disappointment to hear Martha's woeful, hypnotic voice for a more substantial segment of the night's program.
Following Davis and introduced with the same cheesy, piped-in recording from former MTV VJ Alan Hunter was Patty Smyth, one-time frontwoman for short-lived '80s band, Scandal. Given a 40-minute slot, Smyth (not to be confused with poet and punk rock pioneer, Patti Smith) entertained the crowd with her comical anecdotes and her explanation for chomping on an apple between songs. "If I don't eat my apple", she stated, "I won't be able to hit the high notes!" Not exactly sure what the connection is with a piece of fruit and vocal prowess, but whatever it is, it worked. Smyth's husky, playful voice was in top form as she showcased it on a selection of songs that included her 1992 smash AC radio hit, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." But, again, the loudest cheers came when she touched on her '80s output. "The Warrior" and set-closing bouncy smash, "Goodbye To You," which had everyone up and out of their seats.
All of the acts featured, especially the headlining Go-Go's, proved that the love and reverence for the 1980s is alive and kicking, and the memories and good vibes the decade's music still evokes will probably remain with many music fans for decades to come.