Boy howdy Adelaide has been spoiled for choice with retro pop shows recently. So Pop was a delicious 90s extravaganza (Aqua, Vengaboys, Lou Bega). Summer Season (Jacksons, Kool & The Gang, Pointer Sisters) a 70’s disco, plus By The C (Icehouse, The Church, Sunnyboys, Do Re Mi), Sounds by The River (Barnesy, Joan Jett). So many. Too many? Possibly. More than one person I spoke to, had to make hard choices between shows. ‘Do we go to Bananarama or Belinda Carlisle the next night in the same venue?’. So tonight is a healthy if not packed affair, which meant there was room to move, room to dance and importantly to do the hand choreography!
Proceedings kick off with Amber. If most people weren’t that sure who she was at first, she quickly had people dancing and looking at each other going ‘Ooooh I know this’. Her brief set was peppered with club classics like This Is Your Night and Sexual. But it was when she rolled out the 1999 Stars on 54 hit If You Could Read My Mind, that people got most animated. The song was a collaboration with Ultra Nate and Jocelyn Enriques and was a monster hit on dance floors and the radio when it was featured in the 54 movie about the legendary discotheque.
A lot of people here tonight are VERY excited to see Tiffany. When her second single was released in 1987 it became a massive hit with the help of a concert tour of shopping malls in America and a bouncy video of her singing to hordes of fans at those events. Clad in double denim, jeans tucked into white socks, big hoop ear rings and a shock of red hair. She had that girl next door appeal and was quickly a world wide sensation. That song was a cover of Tommy James and The Shondells hit from 1966 I Think We’re Alone Now. She was just sixteen years old and for while she was giving Madonna and her rival Debbie Gibson a good run for their money. Soon though there were troubles, as there often are with overnight sensations.
She attempted to divorce her mother and step father in a dispute about her career and earnings and, as the musical tide moved toward grunge and hard rock in the early 90’s, the audience for bouncy pop waned substantially. After her third and fourth records, she essentially didn’t release music between 1993 and 2000. She is still making records now though and along the way has been involved in a bunch of reality TV shows (I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Cook Off), appeared in Playboy and done some acting (Blood Snow, Mega Piranha and Mega Python vs Gatoroid, with Debbie Gibson). So there has been some things getting in the way of her touring Australia before now! So tonight she is really happy to be here and we are very happy to see her too. Using backing tracks and a live guitar player, Tiffany’s voice is powerful and strong, evoking hints of Stevie Nicks or Anne Wilson from Heart.
What is surprising is that most of the set is made up of songs from her new album Pieces of Me. It is a bold move on a retro bill such as this, but the reception to these songs is enthusiastic and several times people are singing along by the end of new songs. The biggest reactions are naturally for the old hits though, with Could’ve Been, her version of The Beatles I Saw Him Standing There wowing the crowd before the blockbuster I Think We’re Alone Now blew the roof off the joint. Come back soon Tiffany, you were terrific!
Tonight’s show was originally scheduled to play at Thebby, and was moved to the more intimate surroundings of The Gov giving us a close up and personal experience. I suspect for Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin, this is one of the smallest shows Bananarama have played in many years. Since they played Thebby exactly three years ago (minus one day), they have done a major tour of arenas in the UK reunited with the third banana in this rama, Siobhan Fahey. The classic trio also played some dates in the USA and there was speculation that we may get all of the girls on this tour. Ms Fahey, I believe re-left the project in August. However a Bananarama gig is always going to be a top night regardless of how many bananas are in the bunch and Sara and Keren are fantastic fun.
Occasionally floundering to use their trademark moves on such a small stage, they really come across as best friends having a laugh. Doing the hand choreography, they had in many of their videos and chatting with the fans between songs. Keren tells us she is worried about getting confused with the set list. She needn’t have worried because the set list 100% monster smash dynamic poptastic hits from start to finish. Along with their four piece band, the girls kick off with I Heard a Rumour from 1987. This was one of their super successful hits from their time with the Stock Aitken and Waterman production team.
People often talk with disdain about SAW’s assembly line attitude to pop production, but they were one of the greatest pop writing and production teams in history. One one point you couldn’t swing your Boy London t-shirt in the charts without hitting several SAW artists at every turn. Kylie, Jason, Dead or Alive, Divine, Hazel Dean, Rick Astley, Mel & Kim…Roland The Rat. 100+ top ten hits, 40 Million records sold and they made bags of money. I am sure those people’s derision keeps them up at night! Rumour is a great example of SAW taking a pretty good song, rolling it in magic fairy dust then frosting it with double strength pop icing. Then comes Shy Boy from 1982, the first song most people heard them do after two collaborations with The Fun Boy Three. Such a cool song and everybody is singing along. And so the night goes, monster hit after monster hit. Love Truth & Honesty, Really Saying Something, I Can’t Help it, and their killer version of Nathan Jones (originally by The Supremes).
Each new song is met with that noise. Y’Know the one? The Oh I Know This I LOVE THIS SONG noise. Cruel Summer evokes memories of them wearing oversized overalls. Robert DeNiros Waiting always made me wonder if I had ever heard him actually ‘talking Italian’. I Want You Back is more SAW gold, containing one of my favourite refrains in a pop song ‘If you go away, you’ll regret it some day, please stay‘. Love In The First Degree has us exclaiming that we are ‘guilty, guilty as a girl can be’. The on stage bond between Sara and Keren is clear. They appear to be life long friends. The sort of friends you see at a BBQ and when you find out they have been best friends since kindergarten you are not in the least bit surprised. They are doing a job, but they are also having a giggle about it all, the dance moves the hand chorey. Keren is often pulling faces, poking her tongue out and generally acting like she is a bit embarrassed so many people have shown up for the school talent show. It’s wonderful and adorable.
It occurs to me that part of Bananarama’s appeal has always been the tacit ‘every girl’ feel of especially the early singles. They seemed like they could have been any bunch of three girl friends, singing into hair brushes and working out some dance moves in a bedroom somewhere. The fact they became proper pop stars made their fans feel like they were spending their time with friends, singing along with their class mates and they themselves could be pop stars too.
The set winds up with us all doing the fire dance for Venus. Originally a hit for Dutch rock band Shocking Blue in 1969, there are many great versions of it. Australia’s Blue Ruin do an ace version. Germany’s Claws Boys Claw is another one. Tom Jones does a version that you must go and look for on YouTube, but the ‘Nanas (along with the SAW team) really made their version the definitive 80s version. Tonight it is an explosion of pop glitter, funky basslines and Countdown era flashbacks.
They return for a one song encore and what could be more appropriate than Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)? And that’s what we do. We kiss goodbye to Bananarama til next time.
What a POP-Tastic night!
Live Review by Ian Bell