STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
“Retro Futura” — what a name for a concert!
Maybe it’ll make more sense when you realize who’s on the bill Aug. 22 at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside: Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina Leskanich.
Co-headliners Jones and Bailey were telegenic stars during MTV’s early glory years, and performed during the Live Aid concerts in 1985. Each artist on the tour is forever associated with the forward-thinking new wave music of the ‘80s. Some even have new tunes to share.
“They’re all friends of mine. It should be a fun few weeks,” said Jones of his tour mates.
Bailey noted that he looked up to China Crisis, who started recording in the late ‘70s. “Midge Ure is rock ‘n’ roll royalty in the U.K. And there’s Katrina’s spectacular music and smash hits,” he said.
The voice of essential ‘80s hits “Hold Me Now,” “Doctor! Doctor!”, “King for a Day” and “Lay Your Hands on Me,” Bailey said it was at Jones’ behest that he join the Retro Futura tour. “I’m getting my arm twisted by a good friend and I have to take it seriously. It’s been a long time coming to re-engage with this material,” he said.
In all, the Thompson Twins — who Madonna introduced on stage at Live Aid at the former JFK Stadium in Philadelphia as “unidentical but unsurpassable” — had seven U.S. top 40 singles spanning 1983 to 1989. Involved in various experimental music and education projects since the ‘90s, Bailey hasn’t performed those songs in public in more than 25 years.
“Fantastic … I’m so happy,” Bailey replied when asked how rehearsals were going with the electronic/keyboard-based four-piece band.
Then came the realization that there’s a generation that regards the old songs fondly as pieces of the soundtrack of their formative years, and there’s pressure to perform them well. “The thing about Howard is he never stopped (recording and performing). This thing is going to be a little like a high school reunion. I’ve got to be careful it doesn’t consume me,” Bailey said, describing his nervous excitement.
Combining cutting-edge synthesizer technology, classical piano training, keen pop songwriting and earnest, passionate vocals, Howard Jones had a Midas-touch run of nine American top 40 hits between 1984 and 1992, including “Things Can Only Get Better” (which became a hit all over again in Europe last year thanks to a remix by French house music artist Cedric Gervais) and the collaboration with Phil Collins, “No One is to Blame.”
If you’ve seen his “acoustic” solo concerts at the Sellersville Theater — which Jones remembers being fun and “great, great shows” — you should know that this time around, he’ll have a drummer and another technician/musician handling sequencing and samples.
“It’s a very electronic show … very much not a rock ‘n’ roll band,” he said with a laugh.
Jones’ debut album, “Human’s Lib,” which included the singles “What is Love?” and “New Song,” marks its 30th anniversary this year. When asked to compare the technology he was working with back then to what he uses now, he said today’s keyboards travel easier, and he’s able to “say goodbye to the hardware” and use a more software-based approach to composing and performing. “It’s so much more flexible and powerful to work with,” he commented.
One of Jones’ new projects is a stage show called “Engage,” which he said will soon be available on DVD and CD. Besides his U.S. hits, Jones said, the Retro Futura audiences will get to hear the “Healing Touch” portion of “Engage.”
Who’s who of Retro Futura
Midge Ure played guitar in the hard rock band Thin Lizzy, but is best known for singing with the synthesizer-based Ultravox, as well as co-organizing the charity recording “Do Tbey Know It’s Christmas?” with Bob Geldof. Ure also co-wrote and produced the Band Aid song, which continues to be a holiday staple. Ultravox performed at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London. Standout tracks include “Vienna,” “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” and “Love’s Great Adventure.” Among Ure’s solo career selections will be songs from a new album coming out this month called “Fragile.”
The only American in the lineup, Katrina Leskanich, was the Katrina of Katrina and the Waves. Since the song “Walking on Sunshine” was released in 1985, it’s been played an estimated 2.5 million times on American radio, according to a Retro Futura Tour press release. Leskanich has a new solo album called “Blisland.”
Led by vocalist/keyboardist Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon, English pop/rock band China Crisis hit their stride with the album “Flaunt the Imperfection,” which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan (Becker also played on the album). Standout songs include “King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)” and “Working with Fire and Steel.”
Follow Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Retro Futura Tour.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22.
WHERE: The Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave. at Easton Road, Glenside.
INFO: Call (215) 572-7650 or visit www.keswicktheatre.com. Check the Retro Futura Tour Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheRegenerationTour.