Okay, it’s taken me a lot longer than anticipated to finally put a pin in this prolonged ’80s flashback series, best known as “80’s Weekend” (or the plural version of that, since this will be the third and final installment of this series).
Call it what you will – procrastination, distraction, burn-out, etc. Actually, I’ve just been abnormally busy with work, so I haven’t found the time or energy to author this last concert chapter of the once-mighty pre-pandemic mini-festival of all things musical from the ’80s.
It’s a good thing, though. I think there is such a thing as “too much.” And that definitely applies to ’80s music, no matter how influential, important or nostalgic some of those tunes may be. Stepping back to the present provides a necessary balance, provided you know the right steps that work for you. And after two deep dives into the past, I’ve needed a bit of that over the last few weeks – including a slight ’90s detour into Concrete Blonde, and believe it or not, an actual concert I recently went to, featuring East Coast chill-wave act Small Black (the post, of which, is coming soon).
Anyway, as mentioned, this is the concluding chapter for my “80’s Weekend” trilogy series. This one’s officially “80’s Weekend #4.” To summarize, the last two posts covered “#2” and “#3.” And I skipped “#1,” because I preferred the similar-but-better line-up to “#2.”
And yes, right before the lockdown happened, nearly a year and a half ago, I covered “#9,” which is the last “80’s Weekend” I attended … and as far as I know, the last one that occurred. But that one’s not featured in this series, since it technically wasn’t a flashback show at the time it was published.
That brings things up to date …
“80’s Weekend #4” is actually my favorite of the bunch. It had fewer acts (6 vs. the typical 10-12) , which meant each band on the bill could perform longer. And the co-headliners mark two of my childhood favorites … Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, a.k.a. OMD, and The Psychedelic Furs – both of whom incidentally (and coincidentally) share the trivial honor of appearing on the same soundtrack for John Hughes’ high school classic “Pretty in Pink.”
Pop culture nonsense aside, the featured support acts weren’t too shabby either … the original line-up to The Fixx, Colin Hay performing hits from his Aussie pastime Men at Work, an encore engagement from SoCal favs Berlin, and even a robust set from ex-Go Go’s vocalist Belinda Carlisle, proving indeed that heaven is a place on earth (or at the very least, DTLA for this particular evening).
So once again, and maybe for the last time, let’s set the way-back machine for one final trek to the ’80s, and return to the steady venue of the Microsoft Theatre, circa 07.29.17, for “80’s Weekend #4.”
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark:
I equally enjoy the many classic tunes from fellow British artists Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Psychedelic Furs. So I’m not playing favorites by starting with OMD (which they’ll be called henceforth, because I don’t feel like typing their full name with the funky spelling over and over).
If I’m not mistaken, these early synth-pop purveyors were the last act of the evening. It was awhile ago, so I don’t entirely remember. But I do recall OMD and The Psychedelic Furs getting equal stage time, which probably amounted to 45-60 minutes in this particular mini-fest setting. That’s definitely a reasonable enough allotment to squeeze in a number of favs – not all, or course, but a fair amount to leave you satisfied. Besides most of these songs range in the 3-5 minute sweet-spot for what was once considered radio-friendly airplay, or what could fit on a vinyl 45.
Imagine that, a bygone era where FM signals and vinyl singles were the main way to experience music – consequently keeping tunes concise and to the point through inherent analog storage limitations. But I digress ,,,
OMD has been around since the late ’70s, founded in ’78 by vocalist/bassist Andy McCluskey and vocalist/keyboardist Paul Humphreys, with core saxophonist/keyboardist Martin Cooper joining in ’80. In the intervening years, there’s been a number of musicians rotating through the ranks. But those three were still together, as of this performance, with the addition of drummer Stuart Kershaw, who joined in ’93.
A lot of critics like to view OMD in two distinct phases, pre- and post-“Junk Culture,” referring to their pivotal fifth album released in ’84. Prior to “Junk Culture,” OMD favored a more experimental avant-garde approach to electronic-based music, flavored by pop melodies but never dominated by them. “Junk Culture” marked a definitive shift in style and composition, characterized by an overt move towards mainstream synth-pop, with all the prior artsy-fartsy eccentricities given the backseat.
Needless to say, back in those days, that was a bit of a transition for the early and long-time devotees. And I was certainly one of them. But McCluskey and Humphreys were no fools. And even at their most viable, and clearly most commercial, they still demonstrated a prowess for damn good songwriting – which would explain why a bouncy melancholic pop single like “If You Leave” still feels timeless, while continuing to rest comfortably in that ’80s time capsule.
OMD is still very active today, despite pandemic limitations. They’re scheduled to celebrate 40-plus years of songcraft next year, with multiple tour dates in the U.S. and abroad. I’m guessing this was originally slated for last year, but suffered postponement like everything else.
Their last album “The Punishment of Luxury” came out in ’17, a few months after this “80’s Weekend #4” performance … and for their thirteenth LP, very much embodied a welcomed mix of the classic old and celebrated new. As an aside, I have a decent selection of recordings from that ’18 tour at the Wiltern Theatre that I’ll perhaps share one day in the near future.
And speaking of old, OMD have been hosting livestreams and scheduling shows to honor one of their earliest and most respected releases “Architecture and Morality” from ’81. Hopefully, some of those performances will make it to the U.S.
Regarding “80’s Weekend #4,” it goes without saying that OMD focused on the wide selection of ’80s classics they’re mainly known for, which thankfully included material on both sides of their stylistic spectrum – i.e. pre-/post- “Junk Culture.”
In the pre- corner, I have two very well known vintage tracks, the upbeat anti-war synth track “Enola Gay” from the ’80 release “Organisation” (which is also the first OMD track I ever heard), and their self-professed “fastest” (in tempo) track they’ve ever written “Electricity,” from their (also) ’80 self-titled debut.
OMD perform “Enola Gay” at ‘”80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
OMD perform “Electricity” at “80’sWeekend #4”at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
From dead center in the “Junk Culture” era (a.k.a. from that fifth album), OMD performed two definitive singles, the energetic and eclectic “Tesla Girls” and the jubilently catchy “Locomotion.”
OMD perform “Tesla Girls” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
OMD perform “Locomotion” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
That left just three of their most popular singles for OMD to play, the romantic “So in Love” from the ’85 effort “Crush,” the even more romantic and aforementioned “If You Leave” from the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack, and the Humphrey’s fronted “Forever Live and Die” from the ’86 album “The Pacific Age” – which I should also add is the last classic line-up release before Humphreys departed in ’89. He later returned in ’06, and has remained onboard ever since.
OMD perform “So in Love” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
OMD perform “If You Leave” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
OMD perform “Forever Live and Die” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
The Psychedelic Furs:
Prior to “80’s Weekend #4,” I used to have a hell of a time trying to catch a proper performance of The Psychedelic Furs. Like many of these ’80s acts, I’d seen them a few times back in their prime. But once we crossed that millennial threshold and hit the ’00s, it proved far more difficult. I’m pretty sure part of that was due to my own distractions. And the ’80s revival really didn’t kick in until a decade or so later.
Anyway, I had tickets to see them in ’14 at the Fonda, which I was actually very excited about. But due to an annoying work thing that I couldn’t get out of, I had to skip that show. This was before I learned to reassess my priorities, and allow such things to never happen again – unless there was a damn good reason. Regrettably, I did a post-mortem and checked out the setlist from that show, only to kick myself further for caving into vocational responsibilities. There was a lot of vintage stuff on the menu that I’m not sure I’ll get the chance to hear live again.
The following year, chance proved a bit more favorable, and I did get to see them at the Hollywood Bowl, as openers for the B-52’s, who by the way were actually amazing. This was an unusual and exclusive show, because both acts had full orchestra accompaniments for a majority of their respective performances. Sounds like a bonified winner. But surprisingly, it didn’t quite have the impact I was seeking. Sure, it sounded great. It just lacked the rougher, grittier edges, due to a song selection more suited to orchestral adaptation, not to mention the actual additional instrumentation itself.
So when I heard The Psychedelic Furs were one of the headliners for “80’s Weekend #4,” I knew this would be my best chance to see a (mostly) proper performance – albeit shorter, due to the obvious time constraints that these jam-packed events entail.
As I’ve mentioned, The Psychedelic Furs are definitely one of my pastime favorites, easily as much as OMD, and maybe a little bit more, if I’m thinking of some of their earlier, way-back catalogue material. But hey, they’re totally different bands with completely different musical aesthetics, so one-to-one comparisons seem a bit unfair.
Most will probably remember these Brits for the seminal classic “Pretty in Pink,” the tune that inspired the ’86 John Hughes produced high school romantic comedy of the same name. And for “80’s Weekend #4,” that was most definitely the case. Although, I got the impression that not everyone knew there were two versions of said-single, the original ’81 version and the re-imagined slick and polished redo for the film. Thankfully, the Psychedelic Furs did, playing the tune in the earlier diamond-in-the-rough style vs. the more pop-friendly update. Sadly, I didn’t think to record this one, which I’m not sure why.
My first significant encounter with The Psychedelic Furs came in ’83 with “Love My Way,” a mellower, melodic oddity used in another film, Martha Coolidge’s classic ’83 romantic comedy “Valley Girl,” which the trivia-minded might recall as Nicholas Cage’s screen debut, sans the Coppola name, as well as the flashpoint moment that immortalized Modern English’ “I Melt With You” into the annals of ’80s pop culture iconography.
Fortunately, I did get my shit together to capture this one at “80’s Weekend #4.”
The Psychedelic Furs perform “Love My Way” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Of course, my love of the The Psychedelic Furs goes far deeper than soundtracks for pop culture celluloid. At the time “Valley Girl” hit the screens, the outfit founded by brother Richard and Tim Butler already had three unique alternative rock albums to their credit. These early efforts get lumped into the genre now recognized as post-punk, which makes a certain kind of sense. The band debuted during the latter days of punk, and they carried a fair bit of that rebellious attitude both on record and on stage. But in my mind, they seemed headed for so much more.
And similar to how OMD shifted tone towards a more mainstream sound, the same could be said for The Psychedelic Furs. I’d like to guess that started in ’84 with their fourth album “Mirror Moves,” and the memorable singles “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven.” But I think the shift fully happened with the aforementioned re-recorded “Pretty in Pink,” and the ’87 album “Midnight to Midnight,” which gave us the slicker, sax-ier offerings of “Heartbreak Beat” and “Angels Don’t Cry.” To be fair, the sax has always been a core component in their music, just not as smooth and polished as the these (then) newer efforts.
I’ve read that Richard Butler wasn’t always keen on some of this material, feeling it’s probably a bit too over-produced in spots. And he wouldn’t be wrong. But if you take those latter two singles into consideration, I really don’t mind. They’re fairly iconic for the era, as well as two of their most popular songs. Plus, live, I feel they’ve reverted a bit of the rough and tumble into the pop-rock equation, slick enough for familiarity, coarse enough to recall their roots. Granted, these are heavily melodic tunes, so they can only be stretched so far. But you get the gist of Richard’s original intentions of how he and the band envisioned these songs.
On that note, here’s an energetically rockin’ rendition of “Heartbreak Beat,” as well as a spirited version of “Angels Don’t Cry,” the latter of which features a very classy ’80s sax solo that you don’t get all that often.
The Psychedelic Furs perform “Heartbreak Beat” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
The Psychedelic Furs perform “Angels Don’t Cry” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Of course, I didn’t skip The Psychedelic Furs performing “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven,” two hit icons that always transport me back to my ’80s high school youth – or at least, the better parts that still reside in memory, as there’s some questionable ones too. Also, as these two made the setlist for that aforementioned disappointment of a Hollywood Bowl show, it felt right and good to hear them played properly. Plus, I think Richard’s coarse vocals work better sans orchestral accompaniment.
The Psychedelic Furs perform “The Ghost in You” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
The Psychedelic Furs perform “Heaven” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Regrettably, along with “Pretty in Pink,” I didn’t capture one of their oldies “President Gas,” from their ’82 third album “Forever Now,” which opened their “80’s Weekend #4” performance. Again, I’m not sure why I do the things I do. And I surely don’t recall. But with any luck, when The Psychedelic Furs return for the “Cruel World” festival next year (provided Covid doesn’t mutate into another cancellation/delay), they’ll hopefully resurrect those oldies, and maybe dig a little further into their extensive early catalog.
I should also note that The Psychedelic Furs have a pretty decent new album they released last year called “Made of Rain.” It’s far better than I would’ve imagined, a natural progression that brings things up to date without rehashing past accomplishments. Although not quite as immediate, it’s definitely more mature and worth a listen. Perhaps, when they return to the stage, they’ll perform a few of these tunes too.
Since I’ve already spent some time with Berlin for “80’s Weekend #2,” there’s really no need for me to retread on familiar territory. That said, I sort of botched the recordings for that prior appearance, so this was a chance to set things right … or at the very least, do a better job of capturing some of those classic singles I’ve always enjoyed and loved – and totally missed the first time around.
Good thing, too, because Berlin have definitely developed into a tighter, leaner, meaner unit, far more confident and self-assured than what I recall from that earlier appearance … which I might add, was still darn good. I still believe this was the new line-up formed by sole remaining founder/vocalist Teri Nunn, minus newly minted original members John Crawford (bass) and David Diamond (guitar), who reportedly rejoined the band at some point in mid ’17, meaning pretty close in time to this show.
Also, at this point, Berlin were about as close as one could get to being true vets of the “80’s Weekend” experience, with two shows and counting. That meant a bit more seniority on the roster, and a slightly longer set, by a couple songs. They’d have at least one more showing for “80’s Weekend #6.” But I didn’t go to that one.
In addition to the two singles, “The Metro” and “Take My Breathe Away,” they performed back at “80’s Weekend #2” (and of which I totally screwed up the recordings), Berlin took the extra allotment to reintroduce, and (slightly) reimagine, their classic sordid single “Sex (I’m A …).”
It’s been ages since I’ve heard this one … and I definitely don’t recall it being as overtly rockin’ as it was for this fiery performance. That’s a good thing, though. Also, guitarist Carlton Bost effectively assumed male vocals for the seedy back and forth banter that was once Crawford’s domain. Gone are the onstage sexual innuendos, which I recall being a highlight back in the day. Now, it’s just straight-up showmanship … which is also okay. Although, I am curious, since Crawford’s back, if he’ll regain that honor for future shows, like at next year’s “Cruel World” festival.
Berlin also introduced a “brand new” song titled “Animal, which actually came out in ’13 from the album of the same name. Obviously, that’s uncharacteristic for “80’s Weekend.” But I didn’t see anyone complaining. I didn’t record it, though.
Here’s the missing pieces from their previous performance, updated via “80’s Weekend #4,” including both “The Metro” and “Take My Breathe Away,” with a surprise showing of “Sex (I’m A …).”
Berlin perform “The Metro” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Berlin perform “Take My Breath Away” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Berlin perform “Sex (I’m A…)” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
I’m always surprised to hear when a band’s original classic line-up is still intact. Usually, it’s the frontman/woman and maybe one or two players at best. Even some of the biggest acts from the era end up with new members along the way, replacing those who’ve left for one reason or another.
The Fixx is one such ’80s staple that’s still together in its original incarnation. To be fair, I think there’s been some spotty bits in their near four decade career. But the important thing is that all five of them are still performing together today.
Formed in ’79, the core lineup of Cy Cumin (vocals), Adam Woods (drums), Rupert Greenall (keyboards), Jamie West-Oram (guitars), and to a certain extent Dan K. Brown (bass) still comprise the British outfit that once dominated the ’80s pop and rock charts. Brown technically joined in ’83, for their seminal second LP “Reach the Beach,” but many consider him an original classic member. When you’re measuring by decades, I’d say that’s close enough to qualify.
Anyway, The Fixx have a whole slew of popular alternative rock tunes, all quite distinct and skewed to a different mood, slightly funky, yet totally catchy and quite memorable – i.e. they’ve got a “sound.”
Most will probably remember their overplayed radio hits like “One Thing Leads to Another,” “Are We Ourselves?” or “Saved By Zero.” I gravitated towards the moodier ones, like “Red Skies,” “Stand or Fall,” and the one that I have featured here “Deeper and Deeper,” which came from the soundtrack to Walter Hill’s ’84 rock ‘n roll adventure film “Streets of Fire.”
I actually didn’t capture most of their “80’s Weekend #4” performance, which boasted many of their biggest tunes, because I caught them the previous year as headliners at the Roxy Theatre, which I did record. And yes, I plan on sharing those clips at some point in the future, when my mindset aligns with my motivation, and everything feels right.
Until then, here’s a taste of things to come, with The Fixx performing “Deeper and Deeper” at “80’s Weekend #4.”
The Fixx perform “Deeper and Deeper” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Colin Hay of Men at Work:
One of the reasons I feel this fourth edition of “80’s Weekend” ranked amongst the best was due to the surprisingly solid performances from all of the support acts. The Fixx and Berlin are testament to that.
Men at Work’s Colin Hay also matched up to those high standards, which truth be told, I really wasn’t expecting.
Men at Work were one of those acts that never quite resonated with me. I didn’t dislike them. But I didn’t love them either. I just didn’t get them. And their minimalist approach to a slightly quirky brand of pub rock just felt foreign to me. That could’ve been because I really hadn’t been exposed to a great deal of Australian music and/or culture, up until that point. Or it might’ve been that I wanted to listen to other ’80s acts like OMD and The Psychedelic Furs, amongst others, instead.
Whatever the case, Men at Work never really struck a chord in my musical youth, other than what I couldn’t escape/avoid, thanks to massive radio airplay and some whimsical music videos that MTV and USA Night Flight had on repeat. That would’ve been around ’81, when these Aussies debuted stateside with their introductory LP “Business as Usual,” which made “Down Under” a household word, and “Who Can It Be Now?” a Top Ten Billboard hit.
But like I said, Men at Work never ever bothered me. And with the passing of many years, alongside a more widely opened mind, as well as a broader musical palate, I was game for what Hay brought to the stage, even if it’s just him and a band of session players.
After recollecting a few of those moments, thanks to the footage I captured, I have to say Hay’s solo band sounded pretty great. I mean, they genuinely felt like they enjoyed performing all those Men at Work classics, at times, even striving to add a few new surprises to the mix.
Including Hay, they’re a robust seven-piece that includes sax, flute, and various percussion alongside the more traditional instrumentation, allowing them to capture all the many musical facets and cultural eccentricities imbued in Men at Work’s unique sound. Hay, of course, is the only original member. The other core members have long since moved on. And Greg Ham, who’s signature wind work provided much of their worldly flavor, did stay on until 2012. He passed away soon thereafter, due to a heart attack.
Tragedy aside, I’d say Hay practically made you forget Men at Work have been gone for so long. And he made these classic songs sound just as relevant as they did back in their hey day … and maybe a bit more. They certainly resonated with me, this time around. I guess it only took four decades for me to finally get it.
Hay and co. performed a number of Men at Work tunes, two of which I’ve featured here. They’re the ones I mentioned earlier, and they’re ones I know best , “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?”
Colin Hay performs Men at Work’s “Down Under” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Colin Hay performs Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
Belinda Carlisle is the last artist from “80’s Weekend #4” that I have yet to touch on. But she wasn’t the last artist on the bill. If memory serves, I think she took the stage right before The Psychedelic Furs. I just kept her as the final part of this exceptionally lengthy write up because she typically doesn’t fall into my common ’80s tastes – which if you’ve been paying attention, tend to skew alternative rock, new wave, and loads of synth-pop.
Carlisle is undeniably ’80s pop music, and sometimes, power pop, with the occassional power-ballad. But don’t let that deter you. If you’re going to go for that style, she’s one of the best from the era.
And if that’s not enough, remember that she once fronted SoCal’s acclaimed all-girl group The Go Go’s for nearly 7 years, covering the late ’70s to mid-’80s. And she even had a brief stint as the drummer for the punk outfit Germs. So she’s definitely earned her keep, and the freedom to go as pop as she wants.
Although, these days, she almost strikes me as Bohemian, dressed in comfy all black, barefoot, her long hair flowing freely, etc. etc. But she’s still got her voice, and it can still power through the most powerful pop of her solo years, which for “80’s Weekend #4” meant the late ’80s, as well as all those golden Go Go’s oldies.
Again, I only recorded one of her tracks, the illustrious and overly jubilant “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” because I saw her in ’15 at the Fonda, and thought I’d already had a bunch of her songs (solo and Go Go’s) captured. I later discovered that they’d been deleted and/or of poor quality. So that was a missed opportunity on my part to set things straight.
Anyway, I have this one, which for reasons I can’t explain, I still really enjoy listening to. Plus, I love that it used to make it into house and trance DJ sets. Also, electronic act Orbital found a brilliant way to seamlessly mix it with their own single “Halcyon On and On” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” It’s tons of fun and you can check it out here, if you’re interested.
Here’s Belinda Carlisle performing “Heaven is a Place on Earth” at “80’s Weekend #4.”
Belinda Carlisle performs “Heaven is a Place on Earth” at “80’s Weekend #4” at the Microsoft Theater on 07.29.17.
So that finally wraps up this extended postmortem coverage of “80’s Weekend,” spanning three shows and two years. I can honestly say I’m relieved to have finally arrived at the end, since it took me a lot longer than I expected to finish it. And now that I’m pretty tapped out on this particular decade, I’m ready to get back to the present – which should time rather well with the return of live music, as well as a ridiculous amount of cool new stuff I’ve encountered during my time in the pandemic.
Will there be an “80’s Weekend #10” on the horizon? That remains to be seen. The promoters of this event have the “Cruel World” festival scheduled for next May, which features tons of acts from the ’80s, including Echo and the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, Morissey, Blondie, Devo, as well as bunch who’ve appeared at various “80’s Weekends.” So maybe that’s an unofficial tenth outing.
Until the Covid fog clears, and the future seems more certain, I hope anyone who’s managed to read this far into this trilogy of “80’s Weekend” has found something to like, remember, or relive amongst these fine classic offerings.
I, for one, have enjoyed collecting, collating, and crafting this coverage. Now, I’m ready to move on … Be back soon with all kinds of newness.