Date: 20 December 2002
Originally published in: The Times (UK)
Written by: Lisa Verrico
You can look back as fondly on the Eighties as you like, but the truth is the music back then was as hit and miss as it is today. Hence, there were plenty of highs and lows on the Cardiff leg of the Here and Now Christmas Party, a tour of Eighties acts who had their first reunion three years ago and proved so popular they have been backcombing their hair every December since.
Sadly, the highs were few and far between for the first 90 minutes of the night, which stretched over three hours and included seven sets. Three songs each from Visage, the Belle Stars and Dollar were two too many for the tiny crowd who had arrived on time and wandered aimlessly about the vast arena – as though they were trapped at a bad office party. What they wanted was to sing along to hits from their school days. But you could tell that by the way they were dressed.
There was no one wearing Steve Strange-style make-up; this was strictly high-street Eighties – white jeans and donkey jackets for the men, tapered trousers and court shoes for the women.
The gig got going with Altered Images, thanks to a chirpy Claire Grogan, who looked like a glamorous auntie in a silky, red, strapless dress. Everyone loved Happy Birthday and I Could Be Happy, but they were also grateful that Grogan had brought along two backing singers to mask her own squeaky vocals, which haven’t improved with age. Denise from Five Star was in a different class. Flanked by sister Lorraine and brother Stedman – so Three Star really – she belted out songs such as System Addict and All Fall Down as though she was auditioning for Liberty X. Throw in some pretty good dance routines and the audience had finally got what they came for.
Kim Wilde was the night’s highlight and the only singer who brought a bit of rock’n’roll to the arena. She also brought her brother, who played guitar, and sang Four Letter Word, a song written by her father, Marty Wilde. But it was the old hits Chequered Love, View from the Bridge and Kids in America that got the crowd moving. In a low-cut leather top and strange shredded skirt over jeans, she was still every inch the gorgeous blonde who was once Britain’s answer to Debbie Harry.
Human League are old hands at this reunion business, so they should have known the rules. The girls were too old for their barely-there outfits and after crowd pleasers such as Love Action and Don’t You Want Me, they should never have attempted new material. It went down like a lead balloon.