Wednesday night 8/27 at Ravinia Festival was the perfect night, and perfect weather for a lively crowd of 80’s music enthusiasts who were in for a real treat. First to hit the stage was Canadian Singer Katrina Leskanich from the 80’s group Katrina and the Waves who started the show that night with a very energetic set of tunes including her encore, the one huge hit for her band back in 1985 Walking on Sunshine which whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Katrina sounded great with this house band of very talented musicians who stayed on the stage for the most part to accompany each set of performers.
The Next act to immediately follow was none other than the synth-pop band from Kirkby England China Crisis who I personally was very excited to see being a huge fan of theirs since the first time hearing them in 1985. Led by Lead vocalist and songwriter Gary Daly and Guitarist Eddie Lundon the two opened their set with Arizona Sky, a lovely gem from their What Price Paradise release(1986). They followed with one of their early efforts African & White from the bands’ debut release Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain(1982). The two were sounding great, Daly’s voice was a bit hoarse but nevertheless belting out such hits as Wishful Thinking from their 1983 release Working with Fire and Steel: Possible Pop Songs Volume Two. Then towards the end of the set we heard Black Man Ray, and King In A Catholic Style(Wake Up) from their 1985 release Flaunt the Imperfection, which was the bands first collaboration with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, who produced and was also credited as a member of the band on this record. Those two songs made a China Crisis fan like me very happy indeed.
Midge Ure from the band Ultravox was up next, and strapped with a beautiful Les Paul guitar sang some of Ultravox’s great tunes he recorded with them since first Joining the band in 1979. Songs like Vienna, and Dancing with Tears in My Eyes got the audience going, and those who were fans of this very talented band were thoroughly entertained by Ure’s killer vocals very reminiscent of A Bryan Ferry Roxy Music glam type vibe. A Very enjoyable and high energy set to take the show to its mid-way point and then the shows Intermission.
Back from Intermission the crowd was getting antsy and very excited as Howard Jones took the stage along with one additional drummer/percussionist to accompany he and his Keytar and keyboard/Piano setup. A fantastic intro and right into one of my personal favorite songs by Jones, Like to Get to Know You Well from his 1985 classic release Dream Into Action got the crowd Pumped and up on their feet dancing their asses off. Jones sounded pitch perfect, and was full of energy as he stuck to a lot of his early hits both from Human’s Lib(1984) and Dream Into Action(1985). Songs like New Song, and What Is Love, two of the songs that with the help of MTV back in 1984 put Howard Jones on the 80’s map of artists to watch out for. Along with hits like Things Can only Get Better and bringing it down to the super slow, beautiful No One is to Blame also from Dream Into Action, Jones did not disappoint as the crowd danced and sang along to every word of these hits. They just kept coming with a more recent hit, Everlasting Love, from Cross That Line(1989) which got the entire place on their feet , Jones even mixed it in with a very more modern Dub-step sort of beat that really got the audience pumped. Further proof that Jones is still relevant and can and continuous sing-a long style accompaniment from the very happy audience. A Great set closer for Jones. He’s still got it.
The final performer, and frontman of the seminal Thompson Twins, Tom Bailey was welcomed to the stage by a very enthusiastic crowd. It was interesting looking around the pavillion that night noticing how many 30s-40s ish looking men there were there who were totally into these tunes. By All of these groups, and performers. Proving that yes, this music from the 80’s is still incredible and relevant, and we “old men” can still appreciate it AND dance to it. I myself first heard and picked up my 1st Thompson Twins Cassette(Side Kicks it was released as in USA & Japan, but Quick Step And Side Kick in the UK) in the summer of 83 in Edinburgh, Scotland. I still have it to this day and it still gets good play in my cars cassette deck as well. Bailey and his accompanying keyboardists and drummer played Hit after hit pretty much going chronologically from their first single, recorded in 1982, and recognizable from the Ghostbusters soundtrack In the Name of Love was a perfect song to start the set. The Thompson Twins had a great run in the 80’s and early 90’s releasing 8 records in that time, the last record being released 1991, but Bailey focused on the years 1983-1985 for this set of hits. And as a HUGE Thompson Twins fan myself, this was a great trip down memory lane hearing those hits like Lies, Love on Your Side, We Are Detective, and If You Were Here which Bailey of course played to a very eager audience. In fact, If you were here had to have brought tears, and big floods of memories to those in the audience who were fans, or who knows, maybe had done some extra work when they were teenagers on the John Hughes film Sixteen Candles, shot entirely in the North shore, not far from where we were now watching Tom Bailey, sing that lovely song from that movie’s soundtrack. Into the Gap(1984) the album right after Quick Step featured even more hits This was their big record.. which bailey of course gave precious attention to..hits like You Take Me Up, Sister of Mercy, Doctor Doctor!, and of course their monster hit Hold Me Now sounded just as good as they did in 1984. I sincerley hope that Ravinia festival will continue to have more great shows like this spotlighting some of these great 80’s acts who are still out there doing it. And doing it well! They usually will have at least one or two, but it would be great to see a whole series of like two weeks worth of these “retro” shows to spotlight how relevant and timeless this music really is.
Reviewed by John Gray