Friday, August 26, 2011

Concert Review: Tony Hadley / Men Without Hats

Tony Hadley /Men Without Hats
Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada
August 20, 2011

Ahh, Fremont Street. It's not just a street; it's an experience. Deep fried twinkies! Daiquiris in footballs! A zipline! It's kind of like Orange County Fair meets Atlantic City meets the Star Wars cantina. But for one special night in August - Tony Hadley really classed up the joint!

Nina Blackwood is hosting a series of 80s concerts on Fremont Street this Summer. While the list had many awesome bands like ABC and Howard Jones, I picked Tony Hadley because I'd never seen him before. Of course, if I lived in Vegas I'd be there every weekend. Nina pulled up to host the show in a DeLorean. Over our heads, we noticed a large moon being circled by an MTV-esque moon man and Elliott and E.T. on a bike. T-shirts with slogans like "Fremont Say Relax" were being sold. This all put me in a great nostalgic mood.

Men Without Hats opened the show. Singer Ivan Doroschuk is the only remaining piece of the original band, but his voice was really all that mattered. He looked a bit like Bret Michaels in a black cowboy hat and leather pants. I got a bit bored during their set, since I only knew their two big hits, which they did dutifully play: "Pop Goes the World" and "Safety Dance."

During songs I didn't know, I got distracted by a strange love triangle - semi-drunk guy and girlfriend and really drunk and/or high man who could barely stand but wanted to dance with the girlfriend. The boyfriend seemed to alternate between yelling at the drunk guy and helping him stand up. I eventually decided they must all be roommates at the same crackhouse. I got more intrigued watching a group of high school kids near us who were screaming the whole hour for "Safety Dance" and when they finally got it, they actually formed a conga line and did the safety dance. You can see the kids dancing in this video - and you can see Elliot and E.T. riding around the moon above the stage - but you'll have to forgive the horrible audio courtesy of my iPhone. I promise it sounded a lot better in person.

Many people wandered off after Men Without Hats and a smaller but enthusiastic crowd greeted Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet. I got reintroduced to Tony recently watching one of the recent Glastonbury concerts on Palladia and was really impressed with his voice and song choices. He reminds me a bit of Tom Jones, in that he picks interesting and timely cover songs, puts his own spin on them and is a bit loungey. And he still belts his own classics with gusto.

Tony surprised the crowd with a cover of "Somebody Told Me" by the hometown boys The Killers. He went back in time with "It's a New Day" and back to the future with "Learn to Fly" by Foo Fighters. He got in the Vegas spirit with covers of "That's Life" and "Suspicious Minds." He also covered Duran Duran's "Rio" and U2's "With or Without You" which really brought me back to Live Aid, since all those bands were there. Spandau Ballet really had awesome outfits at Live Aid. The sax player looks like he's a Laker fan. (Check out my reflections on watching Live Aid as a kid vs watching it 20 years later.)

Tony played the big Spandau Ballet hits like "Only When You Leave," "Gold," and "True." The crowd sang along. He also delivered an emotional version of "Through the Barricades", explaining to the US crowd that the song was about the troubles in Ireland. He chatted a bit during the set and was utterly charming.

Poor Tony was sweating up a storm, wearing a suit in the 98 degree Vegas heat. But he never even took his jacket off. That's just how debonair he is! The Rat Pack would approve. He was sipping some whiskey on stage, so maybe that took the edge off. He seemed happy to be in Vegas and said he'd never played there. In fact, this is his first US tour since 1986! He played for about 90 minutes, which was more than I expected from a free concert. His band sounded great and also features drummer John Keeble who was also in Spandau Ballet. I had a totally awesome time. That much is indeed true.

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