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Atlanta Review 8.29.08

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Atlanta Review 8.29.08 Empty Atlanta Review 8.29.08

Post  thompsontwin Sat Sep 06, 2008 11:09 pm

The Regeneration Tour Concert Review (8/29, Chastain Park, Atlanta)

Has it really been 25+ years since each act on the Regeneration Tour made their debuts on MTV and pop stations across America? Based on the thousands that attended the recent stop-over at Chastain Park Amphitheatre, either Atlantans are thriving on nostalgia or VH-1 Classic is highly more effective at luring the new generation of video watchers than we thought. “When we first appeared, we were all chasing that number one position,” admitted ABC’s Martin Fry in a recent interview. But on this evening, each act on this bill was chasing the audience’s applause. In summary, here’s a balanced look at how each of them did.

Nestled in the median time slot, an unexpected overture of symphonic strings and deep cellos mesmerized the masses awaiting the arrival of a lamé jacket as golden as the throat of the man that wears it. However, this wasn’t the sound of the Atlanta Symphony as some season ticket holders may have initially thought. Martin Fry, who is ABC, burst on the stage sporting a white jacket complete with rhinestones showcasing his Vegas-esque stage presence belting “The Very First Time”, the latest single from ABC’s new record Traffic (their first U.S. release since 1991). After a monstrous reception, the gauge of cheers escalated when ABC orchestrated through their catalog of hits like “Poison Arrow” and “Be Near Me”. ABC concluded their stage run with two smashing dance singles “When Smokey Sings” and “The Look of Love”, both of which caused quite a stir for those that liked to dance as well as those that didn’t but couldn’t resist the beat. Even the appetite-filled pushed aside their wines and chairs and moved to the groove.

If you are going to package a new wave ‘80s pop tour of definitive icons from the decade, it wouldn’t be complete without the sci-fi rock of A Flock of Seagulls. In all fairness, fans which have seen versions of AFOS in recent years have been a little less than impressed with the harder-edged approach and sometimes thrashing guitars. Hey guys, the ‘90s are over. Fear not, however. Finally, it seems that lead singer / keyboardist Mike Score (the only founding Seagull touring on this bill) has caught on to the synth-trends of today’s up and coming bands and full-circled his sound in this incarnation of A Flock. By rejecting a post- VH-1 Bands Reunited opportunity to tour with the original Seagulls (brothers Mike & Ali Score, Paul Reynolds and Frank Maudsley), Mike asked for more patience to reshape the latest version of the band until he captured that trademark Seagulls’ electro-rock sound. The wait was worth it. Hardly a one-hit-wonder, AFOS are now incorporating more electronic elements and waves of audio lasers like those that put them on the music map and painted their memorable videos. All of their top-40 entries were represented on this package, including the underrated “The More You Live, the More You Love” as well as the pre-“I Ran” debut single “Telecommunication” while delivered as enthusiastically as they were some 25 years ago. Although Mike Score
and A Flock of Seagulls don’t look like guests at Dragon Con anymore, their space-age love songs are as galactic as the sonic boom of the Millennium Falcon.

The most challenging set of the night was braved by Naked Eyes. Thick-haired Pete Byrne, looking as English and poised as a rainy-day park statue, opened the Regeneration Tour with several less-than-memorable singles yet changed the momentum by performing two of the biggest hits from the decade, “Always Something There to Remind Me” and “Promises, Promises”. Taking their fashion cues from the agents in Men In Black, Naked Eyes (four backing musicians included) with their mafia-like stage presence, was more than welcoming to the dozen or so Cyndi Lauper and Madonna dress-alikes that joined Naked Eyes on stage as ushers continued to seat the late arrivals, many of which were singing along and aloud to the synth-driven church bell melodies that are harder to shake than the afternoon’s ground shadows. A very well-done performance indeed albeit faced with seating and eating commotion below.

The Go Go’s were at the forefront of California’s beach-blanket post-punk scene and I suppose that qualifies Belinda Carlisle a place on this tour; however her sappy hits (even she confessed that “Circle in the Sand” is an ‘elevator-standard’) chilled the audience after their alphabetical jam lead by ABC. Turning 50 only days before reaching Chastain, Belinda has mellowed and matured, reflecting the park’s demographics more so than any other artist on this tour. Wearing comfy stretch cotton attire, the princess of adult-contemporary pop even showed her humanistic characteristics by stumbling on stage after colliding with a sound monitor in front of the 5000+ in attendance. “I haven’t done that in a long, long time,” she said in deprecation. Coincidentally, it was a culminating move after all, being that Chastain was the last stop of the tour and there were lots of unexpected surprises and jokes throughout the event. ABC, for example, was alarmed to see a wagon being towed across center stage as they performed a new title called “Ride”. It is uncertain, however, that this was one of the schematic pranks. Nonetheless, Belinda delivered a solid performance despite her frail, timidly trademarked vocals and plastic smile in her first Atlanta solo appearance in over twenty years.

As the headliner, the Human League carried a heavier weight on the tour. Thirty years in the making, these New Romantic veterans have consistently toured the world (founding lead vocalist Phil Oakey said that the band plays over 80 shows ever year) and have remained true to their electro-pop, Casio sound unlike most of their contemporaries (Depeche Mode, a-ha, Ministry). Unfortunately, the trio’s set was plagued with infractions that diminished their integrity as headliners of this event. Taking advantage of their historical performances from the late ‘70s, the League pulled out an old trick in their hat of experience and used projector slides to visually impact their performance. Focusing on simple images of nature, space and political figures, 8 screens were cast above the band to provide eye candy for those listening. However, it became a major distraction when one of the eight projectors failed at the beginning of their forty-five minute set (it was later learned that the night humidity was the culprit). Even more detrimental to the League was Phil Oakey’s strained vocals on a couple of the League’s biggest numbers like “Fascination”. There were moments when Phil was even a bit off-key. With Chastain’s open venue concluding the 21-date retro fest, fatigue and the night air were perhaps to blame. Sidekicks Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley delivered their lines of ‘oohs and aahs’ just right, but failed to make a connection with the crowd by remaining almost robotic on stage with little to offer. The Human League’s backing guitarist was more animated, bringing lots of cheers on the encore “Together in Electric Dreams”. Musically it can be said that the League weren’t up to par. The same could be said about their stage appearance as well.

Although there were more empty seats on this tour across the Country than filled, Atlanta’s welcome to the Regeneration Tour was recognized by both Mike Score and Martin Fry (he cheered that “Atlanta was the big one”) as being the greatest capacity of fans and filled-seats than any other date on the tour. If the excursion continues as a yearly event as planned, let’s put aside our denial that music from the ‘80s was just a fashion driven fad and continue to crave the nostalgia or however you define it, to encourage others from the decade (OMD, Thompson Twins, Icehouse, Level 42, Wire Train) to step up to the mic and show their faces to those seeking a real regeneration. Atlanta has proven that all can be forgiven (A Flock of Seagulls’ infamous hair styles, for example) if you’ll just come here and sing along with the rest of us, loud and proud.


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