It may be somewhat exaggerated to say that Trevor Horn single-handedly created the soundtrack to the eighties. What is certain – as this concert demonstrated – he was associated with key artists and albums from that decade.
This gig was inviting for the sheer range of genre on offer. From pop funk to melodic hard rock and all points between. It was two hours plus of rampant nostalgia bookended with two of the decade’s most rampant offerings.
Opening with ‘Two Tribes’ (climaxing with ‘Relax’) reminded us that Frankie Goes To Hollywood was an eighties phenomena that to some at the time may have seemed at most a bit manipulative and at very least a little cheesy. But the passage of time often tells a different story and, on reflection, whilst fully espousing the Horn production values the album ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ remains an enduring classic.
The 10cc connection only goes so far as having Lol Crème on stage, that band were perfectly capable of forging their own sound in the 1970s but ‘Rubber Bullets’ and ‘I’m Not In Love’ was a celebration of their catchy and clever lyrics, and their own sheer musicality.
The addition of strings (“The Sarm Orchestra”) gave most tunes a different dimension and this was ably demonstrated on several pieces. In particular, there was a thrilling version of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ sung by Izzy one of the three main backing singers whilst ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ achieved herculean proportions opening up the second half.
Of course, for a time Horn stepped outside of the studio shackles and appeared front of house with bands like Buggles (with Geoff Downes) and then with Downes in Yes for ‘Drama’ and producing 91025. ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ summed up an epoch and reminded us that this was the decade of MTV. A dedicated video channel showed that there were other ways of promoting artists – apart from gigs and radio – and has bequeathed YouTube a veritable archive of frequently grainy footage of big hair and shoulder pads.
If you go to a gig like this open-minded, the surprise element will either be the presence of tracks you’d forgotten about and are actually quite good, the arrangements, or the realisation that Horn was responsible for far more than you appreciated. This gig covered all those bases. In addition, Horn linked each piece with a short and entertaining discourse on the context or creation.
As this was a celebration of a decade (following Horn’s album ‘Reimagines The Eighties’), several classics were included that escaped Horn’s mixing desk. However, personally, I would have liked to hear more from Horn’s own production legacy rather than covers of Springsteen and Duran Duran, good as they were. Where, for instance, was ABC (‘The Lexicon Of Love’) or even mid-decade Propaganda?
During this tour several guests have appeared including Russ Ballard. Tonight – in addition to mainstay (and music video pioneer) Lol Crème – we had X-Factor’s finest Matt Cardle and the Italian Roberto (a hybrid of Conchita Wurst and Boy George) handling most of the lead vocal duties.
But it was guest vocalist Steve Hogarth who stole the show not least with more costume changes than Widow Twankey. Channelling his eighties roots (The Europeans, How We Live anybody?) he stamped his own mark on songs like ‘Ashes To Ashes’, ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and even Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’. I remember seeing Hogarth perform with Marillion mate Steve Rothery at a charity gig in Aylesbury several years ago with similar effect. A class act.
Horn’s crack band included drummer Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty, Average White Band), Alan Clark on keyboards (Dire Straits) and guitarist Phil Palmer (Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, George Michael).
A rousing ‘Money For Nothing’ reminded us again that if the eighties was one of consumerism and excess it did deposit a half-decent musical footprint – via Trevor Horn in particular – even if now in more vulnerable moments we might try and hide or deny such guilty pleasure.
Review and photos by David Randall
Side A: Two Tribes/Video Killed The Radio Star/Cry/Rubber Bullets/Different For Girls/Ashes To Ashes/All The Things She Said/Slave To The Rhythm/The Power Of Love/Plastic Age/I’m Not In Love/Everybody Wants To Rule The World/ Side B: Owner Of A Lonely Heart/Brothers In Arms/Dancing In The Dark/Girls On Film/Kiss From A Rose/Blue Monday/Relax/Encore: God Gave Rock And Roll To You/Money For Nothing
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