Before I head off to another concert tonight I figured I’d best put fingers to keyboard and write about last Saturday’s gigging. As a child of the 80s, I couldn’t resist the lure of the Totally 80s show touring around the country. I probably wouldn’t see any of the acts on their own, but put them all together and I knew I was in for a fun night.
Unfortunately Stacey Q was unwell, so she didn’t perform. I didn’t mind too much, as “Two of Hearts” was never one of my favourite tracks. That left Men Without Hats to open up the show. They were such an 80s guilty pleasure, with the songs always outshining the vocals. I didn’t expect those vocals to be quite as terrible as they were though. Lead singer Ivan Doroschuk’s offbeat energy certainly entertained though. And their performance was mercifully quick; they played the two big singles “Pop Goes the World” and “The Safety Dance” before exiting the stage.

Those short sets were just what I was hoping for at a show like this. Give the people what they want and move on. Maynard F# Crabbes, who you may remember from numerous TV and radio gigs in the 80s and 90s, kept the night running like a well-oiled machine, introducing acts and then sending them on their way in his bold gold suit. It worked a treat, especially forbands like Real Life and Wa Wa Nee whose material I was the least familiar with. Unlike so many of the crowd, I was too young for the pubs and clubs in the 80s, so I don’t have the same memories they did of dancing until late to their songs.

Real Life, or at least lead singer Richard Zatorski, were the first to fly the Aussie flag. I loved the theatre of his performance; the big hit “Send Me an Angel” was everything I hoped it’d be.

When Paul Gray stepped down from his spot in the house band and moved into the spotlight, punters rose to their feet and filled the sides of the venue where they could dance and sing. They seemed to know every word to every Wa Wa Nee song, and I found myself watching their elation a little more than the performance. I will give Paul Gray props for bringing out the only keytar of the night.

The first real stand-out performance of the night for me was Katrina, minus her Waves. Here is a performer who sounds every bit as good as she did decades ago, and she has the energy to match it. She made delivering a high-energy number like “Walking On Sunshine” look easy. However, I was a little disappointed that “Love Shine a Light” didn’t make her two-song set, especially since Maynard had mentioned her Eurovision win. I didn’t know the track she opened with, and while it was good I couldn’t sing along.

Limahl of Kajagoogoo was thoroughly charming, but his voice couldn’t quite sustain the notes it once could. Thank goodness for Robyn Loau, who supported him through those challenging highs of “The Never Ending Story.” “Too Shy” was also loads of fun, even if it didn’t sound quite as good as the record.

I expected to hate Paul Lekakis’ set. I was never a big fan of “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room).”But he was incredible. I may have been more than a little won over by that body, which looks like it hasn’t aged a day since the 80s. And that face. Add some high energy dance moves, both by Paul and his leggy female backing dancers, and what’s not to love? He was the real surprise package of the night.

I think Berlin might have had the longest set of the night, but I didn’t begrudge them that one bit. Again I knew just a handful of songs – “No More Words” and “Take My Breath Away” – and they performed them both flawlessly. Terri Nunn has such an impressive voice. She oozes charisma and really engages with her audience. And the band is tight. I was a little surprised to hear one of their songs was brand new, but when a band is as good as Berlin there’s no real reason to stop and simply rest on nostalgia.

Martika was the closer, and the artist I’d most looked forward to. I remember being infatuated with her ever since I heard her poppy cover of “I Feel the Earth Move,” a track that my dad hated because he felt it was far inferior to the original. Martika is another singer who has lost nothing over the years. The way she danced around the stage, yet delivered stellar vocals, puts the Britneys of the world to shame. I was anticipating “Love Thy Will Be Done,” a song I heard Prince perform so beautifully just a few months ago. She dedicated her performance to the man who penned it for her, noting how much we all miss him. She sang it beautifully. As she segued into the refrain from “Purple Rain,” I had to wipe a couple of tears from my eyes. We stayed in Minneapolis for the following song, “Martika’s Kitchen,” another track written by the Purple One. I’d forgotten just how much I loved this playful song, and how well Martika raps. “Toy Soldiers,” the last number of Martika’s set and the night, closed out this nostalgia-fest beautifully.

While there were some lowlights, Totally 80s was an incredible night which proved many of the iconic acts of the decade are every bit as good as they once were. Hopefully the promoters will put together another bill of 80s favourites next year, because I’d love to do it all again.