It’s taken me nearly a week to get round to doing this review due to all my internet issues earlier in the week. Better late than never!
South Tyneside Council puts on a lot of free gigs in Bents Park in South Shields during the summer, but Geth and I hadn’t been to one for three years. The last one we went to was the Proclaimers and Lindisfarne in 2016, on a much more changeable day that required both suncream and a brolly!
However, it was a no-brainer when we heard about this one – Midge Ure was fantastic when we saw him in November supporting the Human League, and neither of us had seen Nick Heyward before – so I bought early-access tickets (well worth it at six quid each, as it means you’ve actually got the chance to set your deckchair up fairly close to the stage) and we headed out to South Shields for the day with my beloved vintage deckchairs in tow.
The support act were a local ’80s tribute band called The Breakfast Club. They played a lot of the most well-known pop hits of the decade, which went down very well with the dreaded ‘I’m wearing an ’80s costume’ crowd (those people are an absolute scourge – I see them at every gig now!). It got a good atmosphere going, and I might go see them again if they come across to Newcastle and I fancy a cheesy ’80s night out.
Their setlist included two Duran Duran tracks, and I’m still not sure whether to be pleased as a Duranie or annoyed as a setlist purist who was always taught when learning to DJ that you should never repeat artists within a set!
We hadn’t been organised enough to bring lunch, so we scraped enough change together for a couple of portions of chips from one of the food stalls. I need to remember to take some snacks with us next time we go to one of these things.
Nick Heyward was on next, performing a very well-balanced set of two big hits (‘Love Plus One’ and ‘Take That Situation’), followed by a bunch of stuff you’d have to be a fan of his to know, followed by another two big hits at the end (‘Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’ and ‘Fantastic Day’). I really enjoyed this set, largely because the people in front of us weren’t standing up to dance during the middle bit so I could actually see! I’m not familiar with his catalogue other than the ’80s hits, but they were all very nice tunes and I’ll have to look into them some more.
Midge Ure finished the day with his usual hit-laden set – highlights for me included ‘Vienna’, ‘Fade To Grey’, ‘If I Was’, and an epic crowd singalong to ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. It was a slightly rockier performance than when he was playing with Electronica in November (Geth dubbed it ‘if Ultravox had been prog’), but I enjoyed it just as much.
Already hoping that there’ll be some exciting choices of artists for next year’s Bents Park gigs – it’s always a good day out when the weather holds!
I don’t really feel that I gave this gig the amount of preemptory excitement that I should have done, given that it was sort of sandwiched between the Culture Club gig of a week and a half ago and the Electric Dreams festival that’s coming up this weekend, and also due to the fact that I’ve been ridiculously, ridiculously busy recently.
As such, I didn’t even realise who the support act was going to be (Midge Ure with his band Electronica!) until I happened to see it mentioned on Twitter the morning of the gig. That was the best kind of surprise, and I spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls with excitement – apart from anything else, it’s a fairly major scalp for my Band Aid baby bucket list, given that it’s the guy who wrote the song!
Much to the crowd’s delight, Electronica played all the Ultravox and Midge Ure solo classics, along with a much-appreciated couple of songs written for other people! Geth and I were a bit surprised that the crowd were on their feet right from the off (Newcastle City Hall is a seated venue), but I could absolutely understand it, because it was such a danceable and entertaining set. Dude can still belt out Vienna like nobody’s business.
(Also, dude retweeted my excitable gibberish. Yes, he retweets all his mentions, but that was cool.)
Midge Ure & Electronica setlist:
Yellow Pearl If I Was Love’s Great Adventure Death In The Afternoon Fade To Grey Reap The Wild Wind Vienna All Stood Still Hymn (The Power And The Glory) Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
There was a good long break in between Electronica and the Human League, meaning that Geth was able to go and get us another drink. Highly useful!
The Human League are one of those bands that I’ve loved forever, because they’ve just been part of the furniture of my life. I don’t remember where I was when I first heard songs like Don’t You Want Me or Love Action (I Believe In Love), because they’ve always just been there. It was so amazing to see and hear all those songs live – it’s really just the singers (Phil Oakey, Susan Sulley, and Joanne Catherall) who remain from the classic lineup, but frankly, that’s whom you’re there to see. I have to give a shout out to the stage decor as well – it was all made up of pretty neon boxes, and it looked incredible.
My highlight was, rather predictably, Don’t You Want Me – it’s not every day you get to see a UK Christmas number one (1981, in case you weren’t aware) performed live by the original artist (and throwing Midge Ure into the mix, that means I actually saw two artists in one show who had written Christmas number ones! How appropriately seasonal!). However, there was also an amazing moment when they finished the encore with Together In Electric Dreams, the classic hit that Phil Oakey did with Giorgio Moroder. It’s one of Geth’s favourite songs, and he never thought he’d get to see it live, so he’s now making noises about the show being a contender for gig of the year (and given how much he loved Peter Hook & The Light and Promenade Cinema at Infest, that’s saying something).
The Human League setlist:
The Sound Of The Crowd Mirror Man Heart Like A Wheel The Things That Dreams Are Made Of Night People Seconds The Lebanon One Man In My Heart Louise Human Open Your Heart Who Do You Love Love Action (I Believe In Love) All I Ever Wanted Tell Me When (Keep Feeling) Fascination Don’t You Want Me Being Boiled Together In Electric Dreams
We’ve been doing this for a whole week. Doesn’t time fly?
Day 7 takes us to 11th August 1986.
Let’s see what might have been blaring on the radio while I was toddling around that balcony.
Track 1: Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Great start! Awesome upbeat song, a real classic (doing the chair dance right now). The video won lots of awards but I’ve never been a fan of it, though I’m sure it was groundbreaking at the time.
Track 2: UB40 – Sing Our Own Song
I do like the almost MIDI-videogame-music-esque instrumentals that run through this song. Nice tune too.
Track 3: Sly Fox – Let’s Go All The Way
Nice beat, but the tune’s a bit dull for me.
Track 4: Level 42 – Lessons In Love
And with the awesome guitar intro to this song, Level 42 are reminding me that I really should buy tickets to that show I was talking about yesterday. I love this track.
Track 5: Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)
I’m so glad Pet Shop Boys have caught the eye of the Now! compilers! I love pretty much everything they’ve ever done, and this brilliant track is no exception. Love that slow synth intro that bangs into the chorus – awesome.
Track 6: Pete Wylie – Sinful!
Repetitive beats, lack of melody, boring samples, not really my thing. It does get slightly more interesting as it builds.
Geth arrived home while this was playing and thought it was by James. I’ve not asked how many drinks he had at his work’s wine reception, but it looks like a few.*
Track 7: Stan Ridgway – Camouflage
I do like this jaunty tune, though the vocals annoy me. If I can find an instrumental version, I think I’ll be adding it to my regular playlist.
Track 8: The Art Of Noise and Max Headroom – Paranoimia
Like the synth at the start of this, like the sampling, love Max Headroom. Fun track.
Track 9: Chris De Burgh – Lady In Red
Blurgh, far too much cheese here. I don’t dislike everything he’s done, but this one is a real eye-roller.
Track 10: David Bowie – Absolute Beginners
Lovely song, up to the usual Bowie standard. Nice video too, featuring a red phone box (though it’s filmed in black and white).
Track 11: Genesis – Invisible Touch
I really like the Genesis singles of this era. Great catchy chorus, great instrumentals.
Track 12: Simple Minds – All The Things She Said
It’s bad that when I see that title my mind automatically goes to the 2002 Tatu hit, right? I think that’s pretty bad.
This song, meanwhile, is a great upbeat track from Simple Minds, no male-gaze lesbianism in sight.
Track 13: The Housemartins – Happy Hour
Happy hour, happy song, happy Dee, quite literally. This one always cheers me up.
Track 14: Big Country – Look Away
One of the Big Country songs that irritates me for some reason. I think it’s the tune.
Track 15: Furniture – Brilliant Mind
I’ve always really liked the atmosphere of this one. It builds beautifully.
Track 16: Midge Ure – Call Of The Wild
Nice pop tune, but it’s a bit forgettable.
Track 17: Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven
Were Wham! still going at this point? I lose track. Great catchy song though.
Track 18: Owen Paul – My Favourite Waste Of Time
I’m going to call this a guilty pleasure. Should I feel guilty about it? I’m not sure.
Track 19: Amazulu – Too Good To Be Forgotten
Unfortunately this song does not do what it says on the tin. It may be unforgettable, but that’s due to the irritating tune that threatens to become an unwanted earworm if you hear it too often.
Track 20: Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky
Never been sure about this cover. It’s very nearly a pointless ’80s cover in my book, as there’s little to differentiate it from the Norman Greenbaum original other than the harder guitar and interesting synth hooks, but I can’t help but love the video.
Track 21: Bananarama – Venus
My favourite Bananarama song! Perfect piece of pop.
Track 22: Bucks Fizz – New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)
I do quite like a lot of Bucks Fizz’s stuff, but I’m not hugely keen on this one. It’s a bit dull.
Track 23: A-ha – Hunting High And Low [Remix]
I quite like this one, even though it’s one of A-ha’s slower tracks. There’s something quite epic about it.
Track 24: Simply Red – Holding Back The Years
Nice ballad, though I’d have to be in a pretty sleepy mood to put it on.
Track 25: Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going
Love this classic soundtrack song! Though I’ve never seen The Jewel In The Nile (or Romancing The Stone, come to think of it), which I should sort out at some point.
Fun fact: Boyzone did a pointless ’90s cover of this in 1999 (well, I shouldn’t really call it pointless, seeing as it raised a lot of money for Comic Relief, but you know what I mean).
Track 26: Jaki Graham – Set Me Free
Nice upbeat pop song, though I’m not hugely keen on the vocals.
Track 27: Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait
With a band name like this, what can go wrong?
I do like that jingly bit at the start. I also just realised that Mann sampled this for Buzzin’ in 2010 and now I’m annoyed on Nu Shooz’ behalf.
Track 28: The Real Roxanne and Hitman Howie Tee – Bang Zoom (Let’s Go-Go)
The rap bit’s all right, but the sampled tune irritates me. Not a fan.
Track 29: Lovebug Starski – Amityville (The House On The Hill)
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.
Nice cheesy horror-themed track, very ’80s. One for the Hallowe’en party playlist.
Track 30: Midnight Star – Headlines
Argh, that irritating vocal! Not a fan of this one.
Track 31: Aurra – You And Me Tonight
Lot of spoken samples in the intro, repetitive backing track, dull vocals. Not my thing.
Track 32: Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald – On My Own
Pretty dull ballad, though the tune on the chorus is nice.
I doubt any of the artists on Now! #6 looked as cool as me and Dad in our knitted hats, but let’s have a listen anyway.
Track 1: Queen – One Vision
A favourite going back to childhood – we had the A Kind Of Magic album on CD in the ’90s and always played it in the car.
I don’t think anyone disputes nowadays that the last line is definitely sung as ‘fried chicken‘, right?
Track 2: Nik Kershaw – When A Heart Beats
Nice rock-tinged track, probably the best Nik Kershaw track the Now! compilers have included so far.
Track 3: Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart
I quite like this one in moderation. Good chair-swayer, and great lyrics.
Track 4: Eurythmics – There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)
I’ve got a soft spot for this one because it was used for one of the idents on VH1 Classic back in the ’00s, when Geth and I lived in Edinburgh and could still get Virgin TV with its huge variety of music TV channels. Love that chorus.
Track 5: Simple Minds – Alive And Kicking
Slightly rockier sound from Simple Minds today, great tune, especially the singalong bridge.
Track 6: Bryan Adams and Tina Turner – It’s Only Love
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.
Nice epic guitar riff all the way through – quite like this one.
Track 7: Gary Moore – Empty Rooms
Love the atmosphere of this one, with that wailing guitar at the start. Everything I like in an ’80s rock ballad.
Track 8: Marillion – Lavender
Not keen on this one – the repetitive chorus annoys me.
Track 9: Elton John – Nikita
A song from a different world, where the Iron Curtain meant that English boys weren’t allowed to date Russian girls, or something. It’s quite a nice tune, but there’s something a little dull about it for me.
Track 10: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
Love this one. I think I came to it late and it was actually the Placebo cover in 2003 that introduced me to it (the Placebo covers album did that for a lot of songs). In this case, the original is much better though.
Track 11: Level 42 – Something About You
Nice upbeat pop, quite like this one!
Side note: Geth and I noticed when we were at the Sage Gateshead for the Kim Wilde gig last night that Level 42 will be playing there in October. I may have another ’80s gig to look forward to!
Track 12: Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero
As usual with Tina Turner, there’s something I’m not keen on here. I think I just don’t like the tune.
Track 13: UB40 – Don’t Break My Heart
Not quite as bouncy as you’d usually expect from UB40, but I really quite like the atmosphere of this one.
Track 14: Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin – Separate Lives
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.
Bit too much of a dull, slow ballad for my tastes. I quite like the instrumentals though.
Track 15: Cliff Richard – She’s So Beautiful
Never been a Cliff fan, as I find his typical level of cheese to be pretty cringeworthy. This one is no exception. Blurgh.
Track 16: Arcadia – Election Day
Following the Power Station yesterday, here’s the other Duran Duran spinoff band of 1985. Plenty to love here, with a nice epic chorus and daft video.
Track 17: UB40 and Chrissie Hynde – I Got You Babe
I actually prefer this jaunty reggae version of the song to the Sonny and Cher original. Great track.
Track 18: Fine Young Cannibals – Blue
Okay tune, but not enough of a hook for me.
Track 19: Midge Ure – If I Was
In our ’90s family CD collection, we had this one on a Top Gear compilation, I think. I’ve always liked the tune, especially the way the verses build.
Track 20: Siouxsie & The Banshees – Cities In Dust
Nice mad song that I still hear a lot in clubs. Highly danceable if you’re a goth.
Track 21: Madness – Uncle Sam
Typical jolly Madness track, though it’s a bit more sedate than some of their stuff. Really like this tune.
Track 22: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend
Great song! I’m going to make this one today’s top wedding disco track.
Track 23: The Communards – You Are My World
My parents had (and still have) the Communards’ self-titled album on vinyl, so it’s one of those records I grew up with. Great dance tune.
Track 24: Paul Hardcastle – Just For Money
Jaunty mishmash of sampling based around the theme of the Great Train Robbery. Quite like this track.
Track 25: Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme
I find this one a bit dull. It does, however, remind me that I’ve never seen an episode of Miami Vice, which I should probably rectify at some point.
Track 26: Maria Vidal – Body Rock
This one’s a bit pop-by-numbers, nothing special.
Track 27: Baltimora – Tarzan Boy
That’s more like it! Great hooks, classic pop track.
Track 28: Mai Tai – Body And Soul
‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).
Much better than History from yesterday. Vocals aren’t really to my taste, but the instrumentals are great.
Track 29: Cameo – Single Life
Not enough here to keep my interest. Bland tune, repetitive vocals.
Track 30: Jaki Graham and David Grant – Mated
Fairly typical ballad, a bit dull and slow for me.