80s VS 90s – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By @Steve Crabtree, August 2017
I’m at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre tonight for the second time in a month, and I’m excited. It’s an 80s v 90s gig this evening, and the last time I came here (my first visit to the venue) I was mightily impressed with everything that it had to offer.
We’ve got standing tickets this time, braving the elements (it’s a wet one), and we’ve walked in a bit late – mid way through opening act Betty Boo’s set. When Boo was releasing records, I was about 13-years-old and she was definitely one of my teenage crushes. She still looks great, and sounds it too. She treats us to her hits ‘Doin’ The Do’, ‘Where Are You Baby?’; and also to ‘Pure and Simple’, the song that Hear’Say released in the early noughties, that she co-wrote.
She’s really good, and it’s a shame that we haven’t seen her from the start. There was a meaty sized, 45 minute queue to pick our tickets up from the box office, and when we got to the front of it we could hear that the show was already in full swing.
However, it’s not detracted from our enjoyment of a brilliant start to the evening, and legendary 80s DJ Pat Sharp spins us a few nostalgic tunes whilst the stage is set up for the next group. We have a scan around the crowd and as it’s filling up, a small amount of people, us included, have come to the show in full-on 80s get up. My friend pays tribute to Button Moon whereas I opt for the older-brother-from-The-Goonies look – finished off with blue neon. There’s some good outfits, and where else can you get Kevin Keegan, George Michael and Boy George in one place as we have here?
Late 80’s pop group Johnny Hates Jazz are second on the set list. As two out of three original members of the group take to the stage, together with a full band, the whole crowd become even more high spirited as the rain has gone away, and we’re beginning to dry out.
They are really impressive. Outstanding and tight renditions of tracks such as ‘Heart Of Gold’, ‘Turn Back The Clock’, ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Hero’ and ‘Shattered Dreams’ illustrate just what a talent Johnny Hates Jazz are. They deliver a fantastic set to the now nicely full Open Air Theatre, and it’s clear that they are (and were) a much under-rated band. My friend and I think that they could quite easily slot in higher up the bill; and they’re a hard act to follow.
To inject a bit of late 80s and early 90s dance energy to the evening, Technotronic are the next group who come on stage, launching straight in to ‘Pump Up The Jam’. It goes down a storm. There’s a lot of “Jam Pumping” coming out from everyone in the standing section, and from those people in the seats. We can’t say for sure if it’s the original members of Technotronic or not (they look very different nowadays if they are) but we’re getting good value from them – especially when ‘This Beat Is Technotronic’ is boomed out across the place, and the audience participation can’t help but go up a notch.
One of the things I like about the Open Air Theatre is that they’ve somehow got the sound perfect. With no wall or roof, it’s a conundrum as to how the performances are so crystal clear – their sound system is a concert-goers’ dream. A real pleasure on the ears.
A band that I wasn’t that keen on when growing up were Living In A Box. I just didn’t particularly like their tunes as a kid, so I wasn’t feeling too excited to see the band, who now have Kenny Thomas as their lead singer.
However, I quickly find that my musical tastes have somewhat matured 30 years on, and I really enjoy hearing the classics such as ‘Living In a Box’, ‘Room In Your Heart’ and ‘Blow The House Down’. And the bonus of having Kenny Thomas with them is that some of his own solo hits are given an open-airing too. He sings ‘Thinking About Your Love’, much to the delight of everyone, and it’s a decent combo they’ve got going there.
The well-stocked bars here in Scarborough, (manned by very friendly and cheerful people) once again aren’t rammed. I like that you don’t find yourself queuing for what seems like an age when you want a refreshment here. So, my friend and I decide to have a beer before the last two acts come on, and it means we won’t miss any of the fantastic Midge Ure.
And we’re pleased that we don’t as he’s proving to be an absolute seasoned pro. He delivers a great set for us as darkness descends over the venue, and performs ‘If I Was’, ‘Vienna’ and ‘Dancing (With Tears In My Eyes)’. The former Ultravox front man is very much on form, in good spirits and its a privilege to watch him.
To end the night, The Human League headline the show, and we’re in total darkness now except for the lights coming from the stage. And the light show that goes with the three-piece is a total ‘Electric Dream’… something they play in their encore. Their set is magnificent, and lead singer Phil Oakey sings so well. It’s just a perfect way to end a fun, lively and retro-fuelled show. Hearing ‘Don’t you Want Me’ and ‘Love Action’ live again has made my evening. They’ve done a solid job.
It’s been a heavy lean to the 80s over the 90s tonight, and I’m not complaining. As we leave, we’ve once again enjoyed a brilliant night at what’s fast becoming one of my favourite places to be. It’s a superb venue for a night of live music, and the people of Scarborough are winners having this in their own back yard.
images: Kluens Photographic