Ahhh, the 80’s. An era iconic for acid washed denim, the tallest hair imaginable and leg warmers. But the real thing that has withstood the test of time is simple. It is the music. America’s premiere 80’s concert tour, and a favorite siren song of summer, is the annual Retro Futura tour. The 2018 edition did not disappoint, especially with a lineup that featured Annabella from Bow Wow Wow, The Outfield's Tony Lewis, Kajagoogoo's Limahl, Modern English, Belinda Carlisle and ABC.
Essentially a mini festival each evening, the cavalcade of musicians and tour buses pulled into NYCB Theater at Westbury, nestled on Long Island . As last year's tour didn't make a New York proper stop, coming as close as New Brunswick, NJ, local fans were thrilled when this particular date was announced. Attendance was high with Gen X’ers excited to enjoy the tunes that formed the soundtracks to their high school and college days. Adding an element of fun was the venue's round stage that rotates during the show, drawing chuckles and comments from the performers during the evening.
First to hit the stage was the lovely Annabella of Bow Wow Wow fame. The band that was created by Malcolm McLaren in 1980 was constructed of members of Adam and the Ants to pay behind a 13 year old named Annabella Lwin who handled vocals like a pro at such a young age. In fine voice, Annabella graced the stage with aplomb, wearing a striped ensemble and a hat. Powering through on songs like "Do You Want To Hold Me" and "I Want Candy," the audience sang and danced along to her short but lively set.
Limahl of Kajagoogoo fame appeared on stage next, to curiosity and enthusiasm of the crowd. Limahl, also known as Christopher Hamill, used the stage name of Limahl, an anagram of his surname. He sported similar spiky hair from his younger years and a sleeveless t-shirt with the word "YOU" on it. At one point, he unrolled a photo of himself from the 80s for the crowd to inspect, ultimately giving it to a fan in the front row. Although the set was short, Kajagoogoo's biggest hit "Too Shy" was met with raucous cheers.
Sharing the same band made it possible for the evening to move along at a fast clip, without bulky breakdowns of the sets for each band. The Outfield's Tony Lewis appeared next, in a camo jacket and a bass guitar in hand. Sporting shorter hair than his usual longer locks, Lewis wowed the audience with classic favorites like "Your Love" and "Since You've Been Gone."
Modern English, grabbed the stage next. Original singer Robbie Grey fronted the band on hits like “Ink & Paper” and “I Melt With You” as if they were released only yesterday. Though they had gone their separate ways for more than 3 decades, the reunited members of Grey, Mick Conroy on bass, Gary McDowell on guitar and Steven Walker on keyboards have created new music in addition to hitting the road to tour. The magic has been recaptured and the audience responded enthusiastically to both the older and newer material.
One of the best sets in a night full of striking moments was Belinda Carlisle, formerly of the Go-Go's, one of the most successful and known female bands of all time. Now a resident of Bangkok, the petite Carlisle hasn't lost a step. With a powerful voice and dance moves that brought the crowd back 30 years in an instant, Carlisle engaged with the crowd and gave them a jukebox of favorite songs including "Circle in the Sand" and "I Get Weak." Though the set was one of the longer ones of the evening, the time went so quickly and left the audience wanting more.
The last to take the stage was ABC with front man Martin Fry leading the charge. Distinguished and charming, Fry commanded the stage right from the start, bringing out hits like "When Smokey Sings" and "Poison Arrow." The only original member who has been with the band for 30 years, Fry was an ideal way to close out the musical spectacular that was Retro Futura 2018. As fans filed down the aisles, songs reverberating in their heads, conversations turned to wonderment of who might be on the bill for next year’s tour.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon