Performing Arts Center at the Cleveland Masonic Hall
August 25, 2014
The Retro Futura tour pulled into Cleveland limping, though not artistically by any means. A rough trip from Boston that included a broken down bus forced the show’s start time to be pushed back an hour. The crowd seemed unfazed by this development, likely because it was a small yet very dedicated lot that showed up at the Performing Arts Center at Masonic Hall between Euclid and Chester Avenues.
Formerly known as the Regeneration Tour, the show was rebranded Retro Futura this past spring, though it still functions the same way: four to five new wave bands hit the road, each act playing for about 30 minutes with the headliner performing for an hour. For this particular installment, Howard Jones co-headlined with Tom Bailey, formerly of The Thompson Twins. Support was provided by Katrina of Katrina and the Waves, China Crisis, and Midge Ure. The latter is most-widely known for his time in Ultravox, Visage, The Rich Kids, his solo work, and a brief stint in Thin Lizzy. As with previous tours of this type, the feature acts shared a backing band and came out in succession.
Apparently, Katrina cannot simply hire a bunch of new Waves (no pun) do to contractual agreements with her former bandmates. Her five song set closed with the obvious choice, but failed to include “Love Shine a Light,” a UK #3 and “Going Down to Liverpool,” covered by adeptly the Bangles in 1984, and another of her better known tunes. Of course “Walking on Sunshine” got everyone moving, but left China Crisis in the awkward position of dialing things down a bit with their breezy, laid-back pop.
While Liverpool’s China Crisis are still technically a five-piece, only core members Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were part of this tour. Their set kicked off with one of their greatest tunes, “Arizona Sky.” With the limited structure, they had to drop the gorgeous sax at the end, but Daly, Lundon, and the hired guns kept the crowd interested. “Black Man Ray,” on the other hand, worked very well with the musical set-up provided. Finishing with “King in a Catholic Style,” Daly watched a few people in the front row get up and start dancing. “Don’t make me come down there,” he said before jumping off the stage to join the other fans who had gathered to do the same.
If you are reading this, Midge Ure can still out-sing just about anybody you can name. At the age of 60, Ure came out and crushed it right out of the gate with “Hymn,” from the Ultravox album Quartet. Then came Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” followed by “Vienna,” which drew a standing ovation. He finished with his UK# 1 “If I Was,” from his 1985 solo album. Sadly, with the show running late, and Midge being “poorly” as the English say when someone is not feeling well, “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” was cut from the set. Still an incredible performance.
Many EDM acts owe their careers to the likes of Howard Jones and he knows it. His set started off with his 2013 track “The Human Touch,” which sounded all EDM-like, but was still a proper song. It didn’t stop there. Old favorites like “The Prisoner” and “What Is Love?” also had some EDM flavoring, but not enough to make them unrecognizable. “Things Can Only Get Better” was done in its traditional form, before blasting into an Avicii-friendly rave number. “Life in One Day,” unfortunately, did not make the set list. He ended with “New Song,” which really should have kicked things off. While in retrospect it’s his signature song, it only got to #27 here, while several of his other tunes went top 10. Yes, you want to end with a song most everyone in the crowd knows, but the large Hojo contingency likely could have handled, and maybe preferred, a different closer. Barley showing his age though, Jones seems to very much have moved with the times, as opposed to being stuck back in a previous era.
Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins
It has been 27 years (!) since Tom Bailey last sang a Thompson Twins song live on stage. At the behest of tourmate Howard Jones, the Detective Inspector caved and decided to have a go after all these years. With a backing band of female musicians he dubbed “The Sisters of Mercy,” Bailey set about relearning The Thompson Twins’ biggest hits, and even reworking a few. And while it would have been nice to see Joe Leeway and Allanah Currie, watching “Lies,” it quickly became apparent that Currie pretending to knit with her drumsticks (weaving lies, get it?)wasn’t integral to the band after all.
It certainly wasn’t the spectacle of The Gap: Live, but Bailey’s enthusiasm was evident as he came on stage to the strains of “We Are Detective.” This prompted an impromptu sing-along amongst the die-hard fans present, before “In the Name of Love” launched the set. If you had to limit yourself to nine Thompson Twins songs, this certainly wasn’t a bad list. It was the “hit singles,” as Bailey described them and “If You Were Here,” because “it was in a movie [Sixteen Candles].” Indeed, “If You Were Here” received additional, newly penned lyrics and “King for a Day” also received a reworking.
Bailey opted to end with the band’s biggest hit, “Hold Me Now” (US #3, UK #4), but again, the die-hards would certainly agree that “Love on Your Side” should have been the closer, because, well, it’s always the closer.
Show as a whole: 9/10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.