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Thoughts from the 8.21 Trenton Concert

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Thoughts from the 8.21 Trenton Concert Empty Thoughts from the 8.21 Trenton Concert

Post  MikeFP6MS Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:13 pm

Let me preface this by saying these reviews are my opinions, and nothing more than one man's point of view. I'm sure not everyone enjoyed the parts of the show that I did, nor did I enjoy everything someone else might have.

The Regeneration Tour 2008 stop at Trenton's Sovereign Bank Arena was a fun evening out, most especially for New Wave and synth-pop fans that love the 80's sound. Tickets were reasonably priced, and the bill boasted some great acts of yesteryear - in order of appearance - Naked Eyes (surviving band member Pete Byrne backed by a new band), A Flock of Seagulls (lead singer Mike Score backed by some guys I've never seen before), ABC (again, original lead Martin Fry was the only member of the famous line-up in attendance), Belinda Carlisle, the former Go-Go, and her back-up band, and lastly, The Human League featuring the recognizable trio of Phil Oakey, Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall.

The format was simple - each act played approx. 35 minute sets, the stage would change over as needed, and the next act came on. At no point did the acts crossover, team-up, or anything along those lines. The closest thing was Naked Eyes' singer Pete Byrne joking that he would play "Don't You Want Me," which he most definitely did not.

The Sovereign Bank Arena, which I would guess holds 5,000 - 6,000 people, was blocked off to allow seating for no more than 2,500 people, tops. Not that they needed it. I'd say they had 700 people in house, and how many of them were radio station giveaways is anyone's guess. That's just my eyeball estimate, but even if they had 900 in-house, I'd say the people at Regeneration Tours might want to flog the area promoter for not doing a better job. I live in Philadelphia, and when trying to talk a few of my pals into joining my wife and I for the concert, all of them balked when they heard it was in Trenton. I have no doubt that the show would have drawn better with a proper Philly stop, and maybe more powerful promotional support. I'm on the road constantly, and I never saw a billboard or heard an ad for the show - I found out via the ABC site mailing list. I felt bad for Naked Eyes opening up, because the show started right on time, and by then, there were no more than 400 in the house, which must take a little wind out of the performer's sails. Empty seats were plentiful. I bought my tickets using a "find best seats" option on the Ticketmaster website, so how I ended up in Row 17 when there were vacant seats in Row 4 is a mystery.

Pete Byrne, the only surviving member from Naked Eyes opened with a backing band of his own, and it became clear from his banter that each act had a strict time alottment within which to play. He opened with "Always Something There to Remind Me" which sounded great, and also played "Voices in my Head" "When the Lights Go Out" and "Fortune and Fame" (all of which are considerably less popular, but sounded just fine,) did the obligatory new song that no one knew, then wrapped with "(What) In the Name of Love" and "Promises, Promises." A few times in his set, he lost power to his guitar, and would walk to the edge of the stage and glare at the sound tech. He abandoned it for the final song. As a fan of Naked Eyes, there were songs I would have preferred to hear in the middle as filler ("Flag of Convenience," "Flying Solo,") but my selfish preferences in no way diminish the quality of his set. I would relish the chance to see Naked Eyes in a full show without the time constraints.

Out second was A Flock of Seagulls, which, as mentioned, meant the old lead singer and a different backing band. I'm sure some hefty royalties were paid to be able to use these band names, but let's face it, a tour promoted around Pete Byrne, Mike Score and Martin Fry isn't going to equal ticket sales like Naked Eyes, A Flock of Seagulls and ABC. Mike Score, the guy we all remember with the crazy hair from MTV was the only original from the classic AFOS line-up that I could identify, but I'm not a big fan. My wife and I went to grab popcorn and drinks, and browse the merchandise stand, correctly guessing that the one song we wanted to hear from AFOS would end their set. There were several t-shirts for sale (each a whopping $30) but none had especially nice designs, except maybe that of the Human League. There were also buttons, miscellaneous CD's and a tour program that were all a bit overpriced for my tastes. By the time we came back in, it was time for "I Ran (So Far Away)" and that was it. The whole set couldn't have been more than 6 songs. I remember watching a VH1 special with Mike Score, and he talked about hating their one hit, hating to perform it, hating to be asked about it in interviews. His demeanor on-stage made it clear that this was just a payday for him, and in my opinion, his contempt for the people that paid to see him was patent. Of course, all I saw was his last number, so that might be a skewed perspective.

The third act was ABC, which, true to form, meant lead singer Martin Fry and a bunch of newbies with him. I thought they sounded awesome, and played all the stuff you'd want to hear if you were a fan - "Poison Arrow," "How to be a Millionaire," "Be Near Me," "When Smokey Sings," "Tears are Not Enough," the obligatory new songs from Traffic, and closed with "The Look of Love." The hit singles sounded just like they did on the radio, complete with the vocal samples from "Millionaire" exactly as you remember. Fry looked great for his age, and was the only one to really play with the crowd throughout his whole set. I thought they stole the show, but then again, this was also the performance I was most looking forward to, and basically contained no fluff material.

I enjoyed this performance so much that I plunked down the $20 to get the Traffic CD at the merchandise stand. I had looked for it in Best Buy, FYE and even the Virgin Mega Store in NYC to no avail. So, either they have no distribution in place, or it's selling out everywhere - your guess is as good as mine. Having listened to it all day today, I can say that it sounds modern and polished, but to me, lacks the charm of other ABC releases. The pop-sensibilities that drew me to the band 20+ years ago are essentially absent here.

Belinda Carlisle was fourth, and looked remarkable for a 50-year-old. She mixed three songs from the Go-Go's catalog ("Vacation," "Our Lips Are Sealed," and "We Got the Beat") with all her late-80's hits and two from the early-90's. She introduced "Circle in the Sand" by saying "this is the song you always hear in the supermarket" and seemed to not take herself seriously at all, which I thought made for an interesting counter-point to the final act, the Human League. My wife liked this segment best, as did the 15 - 20 gay men surrounding us who joined in on every lyric as she sang "Live Your Life Be Free." If you're curious, she also performed "I Get Weak," "Mad About You," "Leave a Light On" and went out with "Heaven is a Place on Earth," which featured weird harmony bits on the chorus where one of the male singers joined her, and her voice really didn't need it. She easily could have done the whole set without a back-up from her band. The crowd ate this segment up.

There was a LONG change-over to prepare for the "main event" act of The Human League, as they had several video screens to be hung, and the "Regeneration Tour" banner had to be removed. Their set up featured two synthesizers, two key-tars (I'm sure there's a different term for that instrument), a drum machine and a laptop computer, all in pure white. I have a few theories as to why The Human League went on last. They are:

1) The three most famous/iconic members are all still alive and were on this tour.
2) Logistically, the screens had to go on last to minimize change-over times.
3) Someone's ego dictated it so.

Anyway, as a casual HL fan at best, this set left me cold. Minor hits like "Mirror Man" and "Love Action" seemed like time-fillers until the heavy-hitters arrived at the end, lumped together and raced through as if they were contractually bound to deliver them, but would have preferred to play more B-list material like "Seconds." The show closed with "Human," "Keep Feeling Fascination" and "Don't You Want Me," all of which turned the crowd's energy up again. Their stage presence and overall presentation reminded me of the Pet Shop Boys in the mid-90's and some German electronic bands - they seemed detached from the audience, and almost lost in whatever "message" they thought their video presentation contained. There were clearly some people in attendance who thought this was the show-stealer, and all-around best, and maybe if I had a better appreciation of their entire catalog, my opinion would be different.

I have to admit, I was curious if all the acts would come out and jam together for an encore, and specifically to see that, a bunch of us cheered for about 60 seconds before Phil Oakey of The Human League returned to the stage and performed (by himself) his relatively obscure 80's hit "Together in Electric Dreams," a collaboration with Giorgio Moroder from 1984, which charted on both sides of the Atlantic (and went to # 3 in his native England).

When we reached our car, it was just past 11:00 pm, putting the show time at 4 hours, give or take a minute. But, for $46 tickets, I'd go see this again, as it was a good time by and large. I think a revised line-up maybe containing a few of the current bands and different acts like the Thompson Twins, Go West, The Hooters, Level 42, Johnny Hates Jazz, Mr. Mister, Men Without Hats, The Outfield, Icehouse or Paul Carrack (lead singer of Ace, Mike + The Mechanics as well as Squeeze) would do well, and draw better, as I personally wouldn't care to see AFOS or the Human League again, regardless of venue or price.

Hopefully attendance in Trenton won't prevent our area from getting the 2009 version of this tour, as it really is a unique experience, and unlike anything else on the road this summer. Just the musings of one man.


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Post  The Boiled Being Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:06 pm

The reason the Human League are headliners is nothing to do with Ego! Itís down to their market value, pure and simple. They are still a full time mainstream band and cost vastly more to hire than all the others put together. The shipping of their equipment and wages for their off stage technical staff alone would have cost more than BC and AFOS are paid for the entire tour. Remembering that the weekend before this tour they were headlining London's Lovebox festival, playing a mainly 90s and 20s set to a crowd of 18000 predominantly 20-somethings. And are headlining the larger Bestival a week after this tour finishes.

2. I'm sure you're mistaken about Phil Oakey doing TIED on his own? If Susan and Joanne didnít come out for an encore then the crowd has made them feel really unappreciated and unwanted. Itís almost unheard of.
The Boiled Being
The Boiled Being

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Post  OutlandoGirl Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:45 am

At Saratoga, CA, we got Seconds, and I thought it was a low point in the set. But it's never been a favorite of mine. Also, Joanne and Susan came out for Electric Dreams.


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Post Thu Aug 28, 2008 8:53 pm

I have to agree with your review for the most part. I was at the North Carolina version and it was not sold out either. Still the crowd really got into it though. The press for the show was non existent from what I could tell. I just stumbled across it by accident and even then drove 4 hours to see the show.

Totally agree with your take on Flock of Seagulls. They didn't seem to be into it at all and the lead singer came on stage with a beer in each hand and walked off the stage with the two beers also.

Belinda was great. She has a great catalog of songs to pull from and her choice was wonderful. Belinda was the main pull to get me into the show. I saw her last in 1990 and she seldom tours the US so this was a rare opportunity to see her as a solo artist.

The Human League may be "huge" in Europe but according to the program their last new album was in 2001. They didn't put any screens up at the NC show. All members of Human League performed Electric Dreams at the end and I thought Phil Oakley really enjoyed performing as all the groups (except AFOS).

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