Although I am a rock fan through and through I have always had a sneaking love of all things 80’s. Being a teenager during the decade meant that although I was mastering in Iron Maiden and Saxon at the time I couldn’t help but soak up 80’s pop culture like a sponge along the way. Remember, this was a time when Top Of The Pops was king and whilst watching the show on a weekly basis hoping for a glimpse of Motorhead or Twisted Sister you absorbed the rest of what the charts had to offer.
The premise of the Rewind franchise is to tap into the now late forty and fifty year old music fans looking for a reminder of those heady times of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads.
The fact that the Scottish leg of the Rewind Festival is now in its seventh year goes to prove that nostalgia sells with a crowd of around 30,000 in attendance. A large proportion were in either fancy dress or dayglo outfits which all added to the party atmosphere. Although whether lycra and middle age spread are happy bedfellows is a point open for discussion!
In fact the only thing marring the party was the weather with the rain a constant feature all day, however spirits were high in the arena and the crowd were ready to party like it was 1983!
Opening proceedings were John Peel’s favourites The Undertones. Feargal Sharkey may have flown the nest years ago but the band were still as good as ever and provided the perfect kickstart to the day.
The short, sharp punk anthems have lost none of their impact with the likes of ‘Jimmy, Jimmy’ and the rather ironic ‘Here Comes The Summer’ hitting the spot. The Peel approved ‘Teenage Kicks’ provided the first singalong of the day and with a rapid run through of ‘My Perfect Cousin’ the band took their bows. The Undertones are still as good as ever as this short set proved and I would advise catching the guys on tour around the UK later in the year.
Next up were The Real Thing who, to be fair, had their biggest hits in the 70’s not the 80’s but hey why let such details stand in the way of some soulful tunes on a Saturday afternoon. The guys may be showing their age a bit now but vocally they are as good as ever.
The big hits got an airing with ‘You To Me Are Everything’, ‘Can You Feel The Force’ and ‘Can’t Get By Without You’ all featuring in the set and the guys went down a storm with the crowd, what’s a decade between friends…
80’s stalwart Rusty Egan was DJ for the day and kept things pumping along nicely in between acts and next up was a set I was looking forward to from the Trevor Horn Band. Trevor Horn played a huge part in the way music developed and sounded in the 80’s and the hits he had a hand in writing and producing are some of the most iconic of the era.
The stage was packed with musicians, including Lol Creme of 10cc fame on guitar, and as the familiar pumping bassline of ‘Two Tribes’ was perfectly recreated you could tell the set was going to be something special. Trevor was on bass and took the lead vocal on the classic ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ which had the crowd singing along.
Another Horn song, ‘Plastic Age’, was up next before Trevor introduced the Grace Jones hit ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ with vocals ably handled by one of the two backing singers. Horn joked that he had invited Grace along to sing the track but his cheque book had run out at the £6000 mark. Lol Creme then stepped into the spotlight for a fantastic version of the 10cc classic ‘Rubber Bullets’ which was an unexpected highlight.
Horn then introduced a bit of prog rock into the afternoon. He joked that the band had learned all of ‘Closer To The Edge’ but the set was too short to play it, I think I may have been the only one in the crowd to get the joke to be honest! Instead we were treated to a cracking version of ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ which put a smile on my face.
The maestro then pulled another masterstroke by introducing Jim Kerr on stage to sing the Simple Minds’ classic ‘Waterfront’, given the continuing rain it was a very apt song at that point. With Jim’s appearance the crowd went wild and a mass singalong ensued.
The set had started with a Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic and that is how it finished as well with a stomping rendition of ‘Relax’ rounding off a terrific set. Trevor Horn and the band were a real highlight and hearing some of the 80’s most iconic songs played live was a joy. Hopefully Trevor and co. will make this a more permanent thing and perhaps do a few dates around the UK, it would be a tour not to be missed.
One band who have been constantly touring since their 80’s heyday are Level 42. The band had many hits throughout the decade all powered along by the mesmerising basslines of Mark King. During the set Mark proved that he had lost none of his bass playing magic and vocally he is holding up well. The sound engineer out front did struggle to keep pace with the band however and the sound was muddy at times with the brass section, vocals and bass all vying for the same space.
The band kept talk to a minimum and instead fired through the classics much to the crowd’s delight. ‘Running In The Family’, ‘The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) and ‘Lessons In Love’ were all present and correct and had a large proportion of the crowd dad dancing for all they were worth. ‘Sons and Daughters’ rounded off the set complete with some onstage dancing from the band. This was a good set from a band who continue to have a solid following, shame the sound wasn’t as good as it could have been.
Time to eat, a reviewer marches on his stomach and I needed something hot to warm me up, did I say it was raining? The next few acts were to be backed by the Rewind all-star band who were well up to the task of recreating the hits and the first act up to the mic was Tom Robinson. I joked with my wife prior to Tom taking the stage that he would play three songs and would you believe I even got the order right. Opening with ‘War Baby’ Tom was in good voice and looking fit. The anthemic ‘Glad To Be Gay’ was up next and that was followed by the Robinson classic ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ which ended his allotted short but sweet slot.
Next up was T’pau, or Carol Decker to be more exact. Opening with ‘Secret Garden’, a song I had forgotten about to be honest, Carol proved that she has lost none of her vocal prowess, belting out the high notes just as she had done back in the day. ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘China In Your Hands’ also got a great reception and brought a welcome bit of melodic rock to the proceedings.
I had no idea what to expect from the next act, Musical Youth. Now reduced to a duo the guys started with the Jimmy Cliff song ‘The Harder They Come’. The crowd only wanted to hear the one song though and as the guys performed ‘Pass The Dutchie’ I pondered the thought that the band were never that musical and now they are not that youthful either…
Talking of one hit wonders and youthful good looks brings me on nicely to our next act, the one and only Chesney Hawkes. Chesney got a rousing welcome from the crowd and was on to a winner from the get go.
He did play three songs but there was only one that mattered. ‘The One And Only’ typifies the term ‘one hit wonder’ to a T and the fact that the guy is still being booked on the strength of it is impressive. It is a crowd pleaser though and Chesney belted it out for all he was worth.
The rewind all-stars were really earning their keep by now and next up to join them onstage were Go West. Peter Cox and Richard Drummie produced a debut album back in 1985 which spawned four UK chart hits and assured the band’s place in 80’s musical history.
Opening with one of those hits ‘Don’t Look Down’ they had the crowd back in dance mode despite the heavy rain which had made a reappearance. ‘Call Me’ and ‘We Close Our Eyes’ went down well as did a cover of the Kings Of Leon song ‘Sex On Fire’ which was a good choice. The set was rounded off with the band’s biggest hit ‘King Of Wishful Thinking’ which was high in the charts 32 years ago, gulp!
Another man with a string of hits to his name is Nik Kershaw. Nik’s music always had an interesting edge to it, pop with touches of prog rock. In fact he was recently to be found singing on Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited album which confirmed his prog rock credentials.
No classic Genesis tonight though, just a range of Kershaw classics starting with ‘Wide Boy’ and ‘Dancing Girls’. Nik’s voice shows no signs of the passing years and his guitar playing also impressed. Two of his most interesting songs followed in the shape of ‘The Riddle’ and ‘Don Quixote’ which he introduced as the ‘song about a donkey’.
He rounded things off with his two biggest hits, namely ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ and ‘Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’. Some things from the 80’s have aged better than others and Nik Kershaw proved tonight that a good song is timeless.
And still the rain came down… Reportedly prior to taking to the stage Heather Small was hiding in her dressing room wearing two jackets to keep warm, but like the professional she is she was ready to party when she hit the stage. Small by name but big in voice, Heather is one of the most iconic singers of the 80’s whether solo or with M People.
From ‘Search For A Hero’ to ‘One Night In Heaven’ Small had the crowd singing and dancing along as the rain continued to fall. Other set highlights were ‘Proud’ and M People’s biggest hit ‘Moving On Up’ which finished Heather’s set. Not my first choice of listening but there was no denying that Heather Small is still a class act.
That only left one act to round off the day and what better way to finish than in the company of the Human League. Like Nik Kershaw I always liked the Human League’s slightly off kilter melodies and delivery and tonight the band recreated the songs perfectly.
Phil Oakey looked like a mix between Peter Gabriel and Marilyn Manson as he took to the stage to the howling keyboard intro of ‘Love Action’. Phil was flanked either side by Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley who perfectly recreated the harmonies of old.
Over the next hour the hits kept coming, it is easy to forget how successful the band were and how many instantly recognisable tracks they have. ‘Sound Of The Crowd’ and ‘Tell Me When’ were two personal highlights but it was the big hitters that got the biggest reaction from the sodden masses, did I mention the rain?
The trio of ‘Mirror Man’, ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me’ went down a storm with the band letting the crowd take the vocals on the last of the three. ‘Electric Dreams’ brought the day and completed my first Rewind experience.
Despite the weather the day was a triumph. Yeah, the 80’s may have been a bit cheesy at times but the decade produced some fine music which has stood the test of time. The Rewind festivals provide a great platform for the artists to keep the music alive and a weekend where those of a certain vintage can relive their musical youth.
Review by Dave Wilson
All photos by Steve Perks except Jim Kerr and Trevor Horn picture by Martin Bone and Arena pictures plus The Undertones by Dave Wilson.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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Featured Albums w/c 3 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LIONVILLE Magic Is Alive (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 MAD MAX Stormchild Rising (SPV)
14:00-16:00 MARY COUGHLAN Life Stories (2020)
Power Plays w/c 3 August (Mon-Fri)
SOUTH OF SALEM Cold Day In Hell (indie)
BLACK LESION Sins (indie)
CAROLINE JONES All Of The Boys (Social Family Records)
BLACK SUN Resist (Rockshot Records)
THE JAILBIRDS Dull My Brain (Golden Robot Records)
FROM ASHES TO NEW Scars That I’m Hiding (Better Noise Records)
THE GEORGIA THUNDERBOLTS Spirit Of A Workin’ Man (Mascot)
THE BEAUTY OF GEMINA Apologise (TBOG Music)
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