Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back To The 1980s At Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman

On a warm summer night at Forest Hills Stadium, it was the closest that concertgoers may have come to the 1980s. The over four-hour engagement on July 28 evoked nostalgia and a new sensational experience of some of the era’s most memorable headliners. It opened with Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey followed by The B-52s, and Boy George and Culture Club, calling for one large celebration, where attendees were dancing the night away, occasionally into the aisles, and large smiley balloons with handwritten messages bounced around, offering a beat of their own. Although decades have passed, most concertgoers felt that the artists, with resonant vocals, rhythms, and wit, have not lost their spark.

Emoticon balloons add to the character, Photo by Michael Perlman
Boy George & Culture Club, Photo by Michael Perlman
Culture Club’s Boy George, the pop band’s lead British singer and songwriter remains distinguished by his blue-eyed soul and androgynous fashion. He is an international icon, and is the 2015 recipient of the Ivor Novello lifetime achievement award. Founded in 1981, the band’s sales have exceeded 50 million records. Their set, with a full band included classics such as “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie cover), “It’s A Miracle,” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” Another highlight was new music that he proudly introduced such as “The Truth Is A Runaway Train.” It continued with a 3-song encore including favorites “Addicted To Love” (Robert Palmer cover) and the ultimate classic sea shanty “Karma Chameleon,” which fans continued to sing after the concert.

Boy George & Culture Club, Photo by Michael Perlman
“Everything is about attitude and intention, so as long as the intention is there, and there’s a whole lot of attitude, we’re off to a good start, people,” said Boy George, whose rapport largely struck a chord throughout. When he performed a song with “a hint of magic realism,” he asked the audience if they wanted to be loved, and in turn, they exclaimed “Yeah!” He then said, “You have to open yourself up to the possibility of that happening. You have to ‘Let Somebody Love You.’” There was a mix of old and new tunes. He said, “We hit you with something unfamiliar and then we reward you with something familiar. It’s kind of like a form of musical mind control, honed over years and years of practice.” Before performing “Time (Clock of the Heart),” he was grateful to their artistic influences, and said, “This particular song was the beginning of us really going, ‘Uh okay, I think we got a sound.’ All those of years of listening to Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye finally paid off.”

The B-52s, Photo by Michael Perlman
New Wave and dance-rock band The B-52s originated in Athens, Georgia in 1976, and with over twenty million album sales, they are regarded as “the world’s greatest party band,” as proven at the stadium. Their set featured “Mesopotamia,” “Private Idaho,” “Roam,” “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster.” Once known for bouffant hairdos, The B-52s consisted of Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, and Cindy Wilson.

Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, Photo by Michael Perlman
Tom Bailey performed some of the most memorable hits of the Thompson Twins, the British pop, new wave, and synth-pop band originating in 1977. The program consisted of classics including “Lies” “Lay Your Hands on Me,” “Doctor! Doctor!” and “Hold Me Now,” with Tom Bailey on vocals and guitar, and his exclusively female band, comprised of Charlotte Raven and Amanda Kramer on vocals and keyboards, and Paulina Szczepaniak on electronic drums.

“Music has the power to bring you back in time, and you think about friends that a particular song reminds you of,” said Forest Hills resident Steven Grimando who attended with his girlfriend Lisa. He recalled a great summer when “Hold Me Now” was released, and another highlight was The B-52s’ “Roam.” “Gotta dance to that one awesome song!” He praised their voices and stage presence and said, “Taking into account that none of us are youngsters anymore, they still have it.”

A fan sporting a bouffant hairdo poses with Bari Cohen, Courtesy of Bari Cohen
“What better way to relive teenage years than the great outdoors at Forest Hills Stadium in my backyard,” said Bari Cohen. She continued, “From ‘Roam’ and ‘Love Shack’ until the end with ‘Karma Chameleon,’ it was a sing-along the whole night, and the artists unified the stadium, where strangers became friends, and the audience was full of love and good energy.”

Sarah Lyons commuted from Long Island with her husband. She said, “My most memorable moment was looking around at the crowd enjoying a beautiful Saturday night at the stadium, a perfect summer venue.” Her main draw was Culture Club, who she praised for their iconic songs such as “Time,” her personal favorite. “I have always loved that song and loved hearing it in person. I also loved how Boy George and company engaged the crowd. He seemed to be having as much fun as the audience.”

Rockland County resident Josie Paz, who turns 60 on July 31, knew how to celebrate! “It was fun, danceable, and relevant as it was in the eighties. The best parts were dancing like I did in my twenties, as I leave my fifties behind, and seeing my peers and younger folks loving the 80s.” She continued, “Although I am a huge B-52s fan, I was joyfully surprised at how wonderful Boy George was; not only engaging and charismatic, but his voice was amazing, and having Tom Bailey sing all my favorites from the Thompson Twins was the icing on my birthday cake.”

Rego Park fan Lara Frater attended with her sister-in-law and a friend. “I really enjoyed how The B-52s threw in ‘Low Rider’ in the middle of ‘Love Shack.’” It made her reminisce her circle of friends in the 90s, when ‘Love Shack’ was their theme song. She found their act to be quirky, as evident by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s dresses. Furthermore, she said, “Culture Club and Thompson Twins took me back to Friday night videos on ABC, and when The B-52s performed ‘Party Out of Bounds,’ it reminded me of WLIR, the 80s alternative radio station.” Frater was proud of Culture Club’s opening tribute to David Bowie with ‘Let’s Dance’ and she admired Boy George’s witty banter, such as when he told the audience to “just get off social media for a few minutes and listen.” As for the encore’s “You Give Me Life,” she said, “It was a sweet ballad, and I liked how everyone used cell phone flashlights instead of lighters.”

One of many fans wearing band t-shirts, Photo by Michael Perlman

An alternate version of this feature has been published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

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