Retro Futura Hits the Deep South

It was if the ‘80s never went away and I’m glad. The 2018 edition of the Retro Futura Tour kicked off in the Deep South bringing a host of ‘80s favorites – a few being one –hit wonders. And you know what that was great. Add to the fact I could relive my childhood without the benefit of Spotify, Apple Music to YouTube.

I remember as a kid the big theme for parties was a ‘50s theme. I never I understood it. Why were people stuck in the past? I get it now as kids who were my age when I thought that were in attendance to see ABC, Belinda Carlisle, Modern English, Limahl, Tony Lewis and Annabella Lwin. In fact it was an even mix of Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.

All six artists played strong sets and it’s hard to pick a favorite. My personal favorite was Martin Fry and ABC, perhaps my all-time favorite act. I was hooked the first time I saw “Look of Love” on MTV and wore out my cassette to Lexicon of Love. His set may have been the strongest as every song he performed with the exception of “Viva Love” off of Lexicon of Love II released two years ago as a sequel to the original was not only on the radio but MTV.

In my opinion Fry was my era’s Bowie with the same looks, sartorial flair and a voice of a generation. Unfortunately Fry has not had the same success despite his sizable talent. He and his music, while popular in the ‘80s transcends generations and the style pays homage to retro R&B, soul and rock and roll – a home run anytime if you ask me. Unfortunately for him and even me for that matter, the only time I can see ABC/Martin Fry is packaged in a retro tour package. I guess the mass interest isn’t there although I think it would make a nice tour to smaller theaters. It requires a more sophisticated setting than a bar or nightclub. I can always dream.

ABC performed last on this evening and I’m not sure if they would be considered the headliner or cool down act. A cool down act usually plays last on a bill to wind down the show and often you will see the audience start to leave – not because the music is bad, but because it was a long night. That’s what happened. I was a little perturbed over this. I felt bad for Fry who was on top of his game as I watched kids pack up their belongings and start to trickle out. Fry deserved a better fate than that.

Belinda Carlisle performed before ABC and she played a set of solo singles and from the Go Gos catalog that were easily recognizable and easy to sing along to. Sitting there I forgot how many singles she had as a solo artist. I was already well versed on all the Go Gos catalog, but forgot (but immediately remembered) some of her solo work. Her set consisted of nine songs and equally represented her solo work and with the band starting with “Mad About You” and finishing with “Heaven Is A Place on Earth”. Sandwiched in between were Go Gos classics like “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed”. All songs were highly recognizable with no obscure songs performed. Carlisle sashayed across the stage during her set in much as you would expect and hope if you’ve ever seen any of her music videos and on the eve of a big birthday (she’ll be 60 in August) she looked amazing and enjoyed the crowd singing along with every song as she played the tambourine.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night for me was Modern English. I saw them back in the ‘90s and was surprised to see so many original members still in the band after almost 40 years, especially when you consider they were one-hit wonders. Granted, “I Melt With You” is one of the most played ‘80s songs ever (something like over three million plays on the radio) and has been in a ton of movies whether listed on the soundtrack or not. It was a prerequisite I believe for any band that played Yesterday’s backing the day to play it along with “Blister In the Sun” and “What I Like About You”. For what it’s worth the band has aged well with Robbie Grey looking like he could pull of the Martin Fry look – which is a stark contrast to what the band looked like in their videos.

Tony Lewis of The Outfield also played a strong albeit short set (all acts with the exception of ABC and Belinda Carlisle played sets between three and five songs). I never listened to The Outfield much back in the day as I lumped them in with a bunch of the bands from the mid to late ‘80s that were fringe new wave and alternative pop. There were a ton of bands like that such as Wang Chung, Mister Mister and so on. Admittedly, I tuned all these bands out a little back in the day even though I sang along because I was either too lazy to change the station or was in the mood for one of their radio hits. Of the six acts performing The Outfield only trailed ABC and Belinda Carlisle for charting singles. Lewis looked like he stepped off the tennis court wearing a black and red jogging suit top, but once he began I knew exactly who he was. Add to that his bass guitar without a headstock that kept me mesmerized during the set and it was a fun time for all.

Limahl made his first ever performance in America on this night. That’s right, the former and current lead singer of Kajagoogoo never played in this country before despite the massive hit “Too Shy”. Of the one-hit wonders on the bill “Too Shy” is the highest charting hitting #5 in the U.S. and #1 in two countries and #2 in two others. To his credit, Limahl is a two-hit wonder as he also has a solo hit with the title track to the movie “The NeverEnding Story” (#17 U.S.). What many including myself is he was only in the band for the one album (White Feathers) and was asked to leave the band not long after the album’s release, thus the band never toured this country. Prior to this evening he has only been to New York to film American Bandstand and do something for MTV. The set was short but sweet featuring “The NeverEnding Story” and three cuts from White Feathers finishing with “Too Shy”.

Opening the night was Annabella Lwin. She of course is Bow Wow Wow. The original band was hijacked from Adam Ant (they were the original Ants) by Malcolm McLaren. They are the poster children of one-hit wonder. “I Want Candy” actually only made the Top 30 when it was released and was a cover of a song by The Strangeloves in 1965 charting higher at #11. Annabella was the child of the show. Many don’t realize or forgot that she was only 14 when Bow Wow Wow was formed. Her set was the shortest at three songs first performing, “Baby, Oh No!” from the I Want Candy album followed by “Do You Wanna Hold Me?” from When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going and of course finishing her short set with “I Want Candy”. During her brief set she danced and spun around the stage getting quite the workout and doing a fine job setting the tone for the evening.

– Dave Weinthal