The glorious 1980s, a decade full of big hair, leg warmers, and flying Deloreans, made a triumphant return to Northfield as the 2017 iteration of the “Retro Futura” tour inhabited the Hard Rock Live venue this past Saturday night.
’80s legends Howard Jones, Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina and the Waves fame), Canadian rockers Men Without Hats, The English Beat, Modern English, and blue-eyed soulster Paul Young played a brisk show to an almost-sold out crowd.
Each artist played a handful of tunes for which they became famous; for most of the acts it was a three-and-out affair. Leskanich and Young shared the same backing band so they hit the stage first. Katrina Leskanich closed with her big smash, “Walking on Sunshine” and quickly left the stage. Paul Young, on his first American tour in two decades played a quick twenty minutes, closing with his 1985 smash Hall and Oates cover, “Every Time You Go Away.”
After a quick stage reset Modern English took the stage for their twenty-minute set. Known primarily for the theme song from the 1983 film Valley Girl, the band closed with “Melt With You.” Comprised of four of the original five members, the outfit sounded fantastic.
English Beat, the ska band which formed in 1978, took the stage and played a half-hour set. “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Save It For Later” were highlights; they were the true surprise of the evening as the seven-member outfit played with a fervor that few bands half their age couldn’t muster.
The Montreal-formed/Vancouver-based quartet Men Without Hats, led by original member/lead vocalist Ivan Doroschuk, played a three-tune set highlighted by “Pop Goes the World” and their huge hit “The Safety Dance.”
Headliner Howard Jones played the longest set of the evening, a forty-five minute offering of most of his hits and a few deeper cuts. “No One Is To Blame,” “Life In One Day,” “Everlasting Love” and “Things Can Only Get Better” rounded out the set list and played well to the expectations of the crowd.
What can I say? This is how a multi-band evening is supposed to go; there was no fat on the bones and the stage resets were efficient and quickly done. Each artist came out and played the tunes that the audience wanted and expected to hear.
Critically-speaking, the only nit to pick would be that about an hour of the show was cut. Perhaps the casino wanted to get gamblers back onto the floor or maybe because it wasn’t a sold-out show, each artist seemed to lose two songs from the historic set lists that have been posted online from this tour.
But, the audience, many wearing their best Miami Vice duds or sporting their vintage Modern English t-shirts, ate it up. For a moment, it was 1986 again: Reagan was president, Max Headroom was c-c-c-c-cool, Aquanet was all the rage, and drum machines were more important than anything that Zildjian could produce.