Date: 12 November 2003
Originally published in: The Age (Australia)
Written by: Michael Dwyer
HERE AND NOW
Rod Laver Arena,
What’s precious about pop music? Is it some inherent, mystical genius in the song itself or no more than the emotional attachment the listener brings to it? Whatever it is, it had the entire Rod Laver Arena on its feet in a state of near ecstasy during Monday night’s Here and Now ’80s package tour, and at least one of its performers, ticking bombshell Kim Wilde, choking back real tears.
The potential perils of such a brazen nostalgia trip are many for both audience and artist. Fleetingly huge English balladeer Paul Young did no one any favours by uncorking a cracked and crumbling larynx where a voice of pure dark velvet used to live.
Ostensible headliners, the Human League, also left their small legend tainted, their cheesy, minimalist synth-pop looking and sounding disappointingly thin and vacuous.
The homegrown artists, 1927 and Mondo Rock, both acquitted themselves without distinction. Like most of the evening’s performers, Ross Wilson was in fine voice and his songs – Summer of ’81, State of the Heart, Chemistry – stirred more bittersweet memories than excitement.
Here and Now ’03 – and make no mistake, this is only the beginning – belonged to the women. A magnetic Belinda Carlisle had the arena up and hollering, with her set culminating in the show’s first truly timeless pop classic, Our Lips Are Sealed, and Heaven is a Place on Earth.
It was a sorry lapse of judgement that scheduled a labouring Paul Young after her, but it was nothing that Kim Wilde couldn’t fix. She had married and had had two kids since her last visit in 1994, but nothing could dampen the exuberance of her tunes, from Chequered Love to You Keep Me Hanging On.
This penultimate selection was greeted by a tidal wave of pure unabashed warmth. It sent Kim blubbering, and then clean over the top with Kids In America, rechristened “Kids In Australia” in a fit of teary gratitude. It’s not about the decade, the gesture reminded us, it’s about the love.