Steps – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By Rachel Crow, June 2018
It’s strange how some music has the power to transport you back to a particular time and place. Christmas 1997, I was working in a nightclub, collecting glasses, pouring pints and making a fool of myself on stage. Yes, I was part of one of those cheesy entertainment teams whose job it is to hop on stage at a moment’s notice and get all the punters to partake in a communal dance – our tune of choice was ‘5, 6, 7, 8’. Cue hilarious images of twirling imaginary lassos and doffing invisible stetsons to the crowd. I’d banished those cringeworthy scenes to the furthest corner of my mind until this evening. Now I’m back in Scarborough at the Open Air Theatre to see Steps, the group behind that ubiquitous track.
Sister Sledge get the evening off to a flying start. Billed as the support act, the disco divas, aided by a live band, are anything but. Belting out an array of the classic 70s dancefloor-fillers that made them a household name more than 40 years ago, the family Sledge are on top form. From the moment the thumping bass line heralds the arrival of ‘Everybody Dance’, through ‘Frankie’ and of course ‘We Are Family’, their rousing anthems prove more than a hit for the multi-generational crowd.
It’s a little after 8:45pm when Steps take to the stage. Thankfully the sun has settled behind a small copse of trees allowing us a clear view of the show for the first time. Gone are the drums, keyboards and guitars of the Sisters’ set, replaced by a group of flag-bearing, ribbon-twirling dancers inviting Claire, Faye, H, Lee and Lisa to step into the spotlight. It’s like watching Eurovision, with all its glorious, cheesy, flamboyancy as ‘Summer of Love’ echoes out around the venue.
By the time the quintet reach the end of the opening number the entire arena is on its feet singing and dancing, ready with open arms to embrace the party ahead. Effortless performances of ‘Say You’ll Be Mine’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Stomp’, complete with dances, are a clear reminder of why Steps were one of the most successful pop acts of the 90s.
However, it’s ‘No More Tears On The Dancefloor’, one of their newer offerings, that really stands out. It’s the story of a failed romance and the need to move with an ABBA-esque feel that makes the pain more bearable. But the real winner here is the staging. A large digital screen behind the performers displays a bright red moon which morphs into a mesmerising, asymmetric pattern not dissimilar to those found in kaleidoscopic telescopes – beautiful!
There’s a fantastic atmosphere in the arena which, with its fantastic line-up and location, is fast becoming my favourite live music venue in the region. And while I resist the urge to recreate the ‘5, 6, 7, 8’ routine from my nightclub days, the closing number ‘Tragedy’ proves too much and I’m on my feet with the near-capacity crowd milking every last second of the performance.
Though some things may be ‘better best forgotten’, Steps is not one of them.
images: Cuffe & Taylor