For the uninitiated, the Here and Now Tour is a chance for the pop stars of yesteryear to take a break from parenting, gardening and various other middle-aged occupations and line their pockets in the run-up to Christmas. Not that I'm being cynical about it. That this motley bunch, which includes T'Pau, Kim Wilde and Paul Young, have managed to fill the country's biggest venues shows that the demand is out there. Well, it sure beats karaoke.
Happily, the artists know what's expected of them and wheel out the hits in all their sing-a-long glory. Some, however, are more glorious than others. The return of Curiosity Killed the Cat amounts to Ben Volpieliere-Pierrot slouching on to the stage and doing an unwitting impression of Ali G. His rendition of 'Name and Number' simply reminded me why I never liked the band first time around. Go West are competent enough, playing 'Call me' and 'The King of Wishful Thinking', but they never seem t oreally let themselves go.
Heaven 17 are one of the few bands on the bill who mae you yearn for the old days. 'We don't need that fascist groove thang' takes you back to a time when pop songs had proper titles, while the house groove of 'Penthouse and Pavement', more Nineties dance than Eighties pop, shows just how ahead of their time they were.
Kim Wilde, pop princess-turned-horticultural goddess, knows the value of nostalgia and has even fluffed up her hair for the occasion. As the compère announces, she hasn't been on stage for 10 years and, for the first couple of songs, it shows. 'Chequered Love' is a bit stiff, and during 'Cambodia' she sounds like she's singing 'pneumonia'. She warms up when she gets to 'You keep me hangin' on' and even does that outstretched hands thing as if she has just fallen down a mine shaft and is clinging on for dear life. 'Kids in America' is barely audible because of the crowd's hysterical singing, but it's brilliant anyway. I've only one complaint and that's that there isn't enough dry ice.
But what possessed them to put Paul Young at the top of the bill? It's clear from the outset that the audience's knowledge of his back catalogue is a little lacking. As the band plays the opening chords of 'Stay for good', the singer grins and says 'Know what it is, yet?' Silence. Nobody does. Still, as he slides up and down the stage, leaps on to the speaker stack and does majorette-style tricks with the microphone, the ladies at the front lap it up. Some things will never change.