80s Classical – Live Review – Millennium Square, Leeds
By @Steve Crabtree, June 2019
The summer season in Millennium Square has given Leeds some blow-away events hitting over the last few weeks.
And one of the highlight weekends has involved the Orchestra of Leeds Opera North. I was lucky enough to go along to their 80s Classical event with my friend one Friday evening. And along with thousands of others in the city, we had the greatest of nights.
“In to the 80s mood”
It was a sell-out crowd for the concert, which saw the 60 piece Leeds Opera North Orchestra combine with stars of the 80s to perform their hits in a different way than they’re used to. We arrived at around 7:15pm, with DJ’s pumping out some sounds of the times and helping the crowd piling in to Millennium Square get in to the 80s mood. Many had dressed up in their neons and leg warmers, but unfortunately I had not. I don’t know why I didn’t on this occasion, and I’m still upset at this oversight.
But nonetheless, an hour later when the orchestra fired themselves up played the Back To The Future overture, combined with theme tune ‘The Power Of Love’ I think my night had already been made. My favourite film. Ever. They’d already won me over.
But the night was mainly about the original artists performing with the orchestra, and it was T’Pau’s Carole Decker who kicked things off. The unmistakable flame-red hair strutted on to stage and gave the crowd a bit of ‘Heart and Soul’. Then Johnny Hates Jazz made an entrance to perform ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Hero.’ One of those “oh I forgot about this one” kind of classics that doesn’t get the modern day airplay it so deserves.
“On top form”
Both artists sounded great and were on top form. And against the orchestral backdrop there was a brilliant sound coming out across Millennium Square. Things had started nicely, and there was a party like buzz which just added to the evening. And something else I liked was the format. The singers and groups were doing one or two songs, making way for someone else, then coming and performing again a little later. It kept things fresh.
Legendary singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw was also on the bill. He wanted us to try and work out ‘The Riddle’ and threw us a curveball with the arguably lesser known ‘Human Racing’. I loved the latter, it was a perfect choice to be performed by the orchestra and let those 60 talented people behind really show their talents and make a point about how immense an orchestra is.
After Kershaw had performed, the orchestra did their own version of Toto’s ‘Africa’. The only vocalists for this one was us in the crowd, and when we hit the chorus the hairs stood up on the back of your neck.
“Armed with crowd pleasers”
As the night went on we were treated to Howard Jones. He was armed with crowd pleasers ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ and ‘New Song’ and we were really getting good value out of the 80s Classical night. These original artists still pack a punch in a live performance. Even if it’s more than 30 years since they released this music. One of the things I really enjoyed about this whole gig is that you could easily enjoy the 80s-ness of each performer. But if you slightly adjusted the tuning in your ear, you picked up the orchestral performance from the musicians just behind them. It all fused together so well that it’s a format that now visited, needs to become a regular thing.
As the night fell, the lights added extra atmosphere. And even a bit of a downpour wasn’t going to stop us all loving the evening.
Jimmy Sommerville was the other big name who’s come to Leeds tonight. His hits were belted out in the way only he can sing. He also gave us ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by way of an encore. All the other artists joined him on stage for this one. And that rounded off a brilliant party at Millennium Square. And the party could have gone on all evening. We’d had over two hours of brilliant artists, brilliant musicians and brilliant tunes. The buzz in Millennium Square was something else. As people spilled out of the venue, groups were pouring in to nearby bars and clubs to carry on their evening.
80s Classical in Millennium Square could and should be a regular thing. It’s a perfect venue, in a perfect location and the evening itself is something else.