By MIKE CHAIKEN
The world was a dangerous place in the 1980s.
We were worried about nuclear (and neutron) bombs. We were worried about the Soviets. The economy wasn’t the most stable. And our social fabric was tearing apart as changes were underway.
But as unsettled as the world at large was, the music on the top 40 and the fashion on MTV put a smile on our face, and kind of encouraged us to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and just do “The Neutron Dance.”
I was reminded of that last Friday night as the Mohegan Sun Arena hosted the 80s Extravaganza concert with, in descending headline order, the Pointer Sisters, Berlin, Debbie Gibson, Lisa Lisa, Andy Bell (of Erasure), Tiffany, Shannon, and Club Nouveau.
It was a great night out with every single artist proving that although there are a few more lines on their face, perhaps a few more pounds, each of them are still fabulous entertainers who had the audience eating out of their collective hands. All the vocalists were just as fabulous as when they were younger. And the energy exhibited by all of the bands was infectious.
Working for the most part with backing tracks, some acts were happy to offer up note for note renditions of their big hits. Club Nouveau (“Lean on Me”), Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”), Lisa Lisa (“Head to Toe”), and even the Pointer Sisters (“I’m So Excited”) gave the audience what it wanted. The hits. They did a great job. And at no point did you ever get the sense… “God, we’re sick of this song.”
Some acts went above and beyond. Debbie Gibson, for instance, played around with some of the arrangements of her big hits. She even offered up a medley of other people’s hits, which included Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation”
Berlin played the hits, but they also snuck in a track from their latest album, which showed artistically they are still vibrant. And singer Terri Nunn had one of the more memorable moments when she stepped out into the crowd and sang one of the songs from the middle of the arena floor.
Shannon (“Let the Music Play”) dubs herself the queen of freestyle. And she took her tracks into the territory of dance floor frenzy.
Andy Bell gave us a hint of a cabaret show with his Amazonian back up dancers and grabbed some of the songs American audiences may not know such “Oh L’Amour” and “Blue Savannah.” He also demonstrated that he still has a great set of pipes, hitting the same high notes he did as a young lad.
Overall, no matter which direction the artists took, the show was great fun… both for the audience and, from what I could tell from the floor, for the artists themselves.
Sometimes when you see acts from your past, you simply get a whiff of nostalgia and then the sudden realization that your youth wasn’t as exciting as you thought it was.
However, with this particular slate of acts at the Mohegan Sun, there was no buyer’s remorse over life in the ‘80s. The evening was great fun from, to borrow a phrase from Lisa Lisa, “head to toe.”
I give the 80s Extravaganza at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Feb. 6 four out of four stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN