By CRAIG HAMMONS
We all got into our time machine at the Pacific Amphitheatre on a cool summer evening and went back to the 1980s. A time when the songs of the Psychedelic Furs, The Fixx and The Church were all being played on KROQ and were all young and carefree. Most of us in the audience still felt that way. These bands were still here and delivering a dose of nostalgia that still stands the test of time from the best era of post punk pop music ever.
The ’80s DJ Richard Blade hosted the evening and had a group of fans on stage playing musical trivia. After a fan won a pair of passes to an ’80s weekend concert he then introduced The Fixx.
The recognizable opening bass riff of “Reds Skies” caught the crowd’s attention and suddenly I wanted my MTV. The Fixx is the only band tonight that still has all their original members. Lead singer Cy Curin effortlessly gained our attention with his vocal strength and socially driven lyrics. Curin was the only singer to address the audience tonight other than “Thank you.” Prior to “Are We Ourselves,” he said “In here, we all have no problems” and he was right. Next, prior to the sensual groove of “Secret Separation” Curin uplifted the audience saying “We could all really use the love right now, keep the faith, you now you can.” The Fixx then stayed with their hits and went into “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Stand or Fall,” held tightly together by lead guitarist Jamie West Oram’s smooth playing. After ending a much too short set with “Saved by Zero” the expressive synth, pounding bass, steady beats and the unforgettable vocals of Cy Curin showed the strong legacy of The Fixx is still intact. Check out The Fixx’s latest CD (2012) “Beautiful Friction.”
With no introduction, the members The Church suddenly appeared on stage almost appearing like they were sound checking before kicking into a double guitar attack of “Tantalized.”
The band didn’t quite connect to the audience even with their second song “Metropolis,” an early hit from 1990.
They then went into “Reptile,” but the epic “You Took” from their 1982 album The Blurred Crusade got our attention with a long and climatic guitar duel. Band leader, bass player and only original member Steve Kilbey then gave us the song we all wanted: “Under the Milky Way.” The audience then was its collective feet singing along with Kilbey. This song should have closed out the set but then did another song that most of the audience did not recognize call “Miami” off the band’s latest release Further / Deeper. It is a long track and most of the crowd lost interest.
After a short intermission next up was The Psychedelic Furs. The house lights dimmed the music of David Bowie’s “Warszawa” from his Low album was playing softly while the band made their entrance.
This blended perfectly into the introduction of “India” before the band kicked in to the intense start of the song. Lead singer Richard Butler was already in full swing running from one side of the stage to the other. Every one of the capacity crowd was up and ready for action. They kept the set brisk spending very little time between songs. They were fresh and tight with Butler interacting with the band and audience with hugs, handshakes and smiles.
Butler stood in front the drums with his arm out stretched like a solider before getting into “President Gas” and perfect song for the time with the lyrics: “He comes in from the left, he comes in from the right, it’s so heavily advertised that he wants you and I.” Without skipping a beat they went into my favorite song “Love My Way” produced by Todd Rundgren off the 1982 album, Forever Now.
It was time for sax player Mars Williams to shine with “Like a Stranger” where he capably moves between sax and French horn. Some of the other standouts of the night were “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven” from the Furs 1984 release Mirror Moves. These songs struck a chord with the audience and you could feel the energy rise. The band slowed things down a bit with the melodic ballad “Angels Don’t Cry” where Butler and Williams voice and sax blend together making an emotional testimony. But it didn’t take long to kick it back up again with “House” from “Book of Days” before ending with “Heartbreak Beat” from their Midnight to Midnight album which was Butler’s least favorite album but their biggest commercial effort.
Coming back out for the encore with the gentle “Until She Comes” let us all catch our breath before the crowd pleaser and biggest hit “Pretty in Pink.” I felt like I was playing my 33 LP vinyl album again and wasn’t ready to get into my time machine to come back home. Some bands know how to transcend the audience-entertainer barrier with a show that has to be experienced and The Psychedelic Furs are one of them.
A band this good that will soon have a 40-year history but has not put out any new material in almost 25 years needs to give their fans some new songs for the new world we live in full of mundane music. But until then we will continue to embrace the songs we love by a band still out on the road delivering the hits.