Saturday night we went to the Hollywood Bowl with Randy and his best friends Clancy and Brian to see the Totally ’80s show, featuring the vintage but not yet oldies bands ABC, Psychedelic Furs, and Human League. Randy had acquired fabulous box seats for us, which as well as twilight dinner, included excellent sightlines to the lengendary stage. The night was hosted by the overly gamine Jane Wiedlin, erstwhile of The Go-Go’s, who flounced about onstage in various costumes, introducing the acts and warming up and repeatedly reheating the diverse audience of 15,000 during intermissions with campy Vegas posturings, a karaoke contest, and a backup of drag queens. Totally ’80s! The beauty of the Bowl, apart from the loveliness of music al fresco, is that even rock ‘n’ roll goes on punctually and ends at a reasonable hour so folks can get home for the nightly news. Of course, when the acts themselves are Boomers, this is especially true.
ABC seemed to consist mainly of original member Martin Fry (wearing a black shirt and bright orange suit that made him look not unlike a carrot) and an assortment of anonymous XYZ musicians. Almost from the start, Fry seemed cranky and vaguely bitter, complaining that he had to hurry through the set so the other two bands could go on. Fry’s still got his powerful voice but, except for a new number off the inevitable new album, the songs seemed tired and more nostalgic than stirring. Still, the alternately reverent and snarky four of us, clapped and hooted as is our wont.
The Psychedelic Furs, on the other hand ruled the night, still together, still a moody, atmospheric mix of sax and guitars and proper, thoughtful lyrics. Richard Butler still commands the stage with his mesmerizing fey movements and haunting vocals. There was no sense of a revival; it was as if we were hearing “Heaven,” “Sister Europe,” “Heartbeat,” and “The Ghost in You” for the first time. Or the Furs time. Our seats were close enough that we noticed Butler wore a watch, a non-bling plain wristwatch with a black band. We don’t recall ever seeing a rock star wearing a watch on stage before. (Randy would later do a bit of research and find that they were all wearing watches.) And another point of interest is that Butler didn’t mention how ABC and Human League were his favorite bands, as those two bands did of the other two bands.
The less said about Human League the better (whereas ABC struck an acceptable promotional note by playing a tune from their upcoming album, HL struck out by playing something they recorded in so-totally-not-’80s 1996!), though we did clap and hoot in unison with the wildly enthusiastic audience. We were more focused on two people directly in front of us, a girl and a sexually ambiguous other, who danced continuously throughout the show, moving their bodies in ways not entirely pleasing but plenty entertaining.
The evening’s perfect end came when we were leaving and we ran into a mohawked youth handing out invitations to Club Party Monster‘s Pre-Halloween Bash. Totally ’80s!
(Some of these photos are by Randy Barbato; Furs stage photo by Beau Genot)