27 July 2002

City Lights Pavilion, Denver, CO


Denver proper has a new indoor/outdoor amphitheatre, located adjacent to the Pepsi Center (a.k.a "The Can"), called the City Lights Pavilion. It resides on some former parking space, and it kinda looks like the roof of the main terminal at Denver International, which was originally designed to resemble an ersatz range of snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Though it lacks the view offered by Red Rocks, it gives an outdoor feel with protection from the rain, in a fashion somewhat similar to Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA.

Tonight's billing was essentially an '80s Festival.

The original power trio from London, The Outfield, opened the evening at 6:40 P.M. The Outfield emerged in 1985 in the middle of what was supposed to be a musical era of synthesizers and sound effects, and knocked everybody off the charts with simple chords, simple melodies, simple lyrics, and simple rhythms, all from only three musicians. In left field is guitarist John Spinks, dressed in a Palace Guard uniform fragment. In right field is lead singer/bassist Tony Lewis, in a psychadelic, lace suit. Finally, in center field, for the first time in 13 years, is Alan Jackman, wearing a t-shirt and cutoffs. Tony Lewis' high-pitched voice can fool anyone into thinking that this trio is really the Police. John Spinks' Steinberger guitar, and even Alan Jackman's high-EQ eminations from his snare drum and ride symbol characterize their uniquely crisp, treble-laden mix. The setlist included all of their major hits, like "Voices of Babylon", "Since You've Been Gone", "Say It Isn't So", and "Your Love". The only awkward moments during their set was when Lewis attempted to encourage the audience to sing along with a tune that not many appeared to know. Good sounding set, though. Because the Outfield makes no effort to follow trend, ironically their sound is competitive with contemporary artists. The band enlisted Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" as the somewhat overused (by many) encore.

The Motels Featuring Martha Davis was essentially Martha Davis with three grand-opening Motels. Martha still dresses in black, and her voice hasn't changed. The fans love Martha, and especially admire her for her successful battle against cancer. The on-stage Motels don't quite resemble the heavily-produced singles-oriented Motels of the early '80s. Martha led the band into the opening bluesy, jazzy, funky version of "Suddenly Last Summer", which I found nice, but not preferable to the 1983 hit version. "Only The Lonely" sounded great, despite the lack of a keyboard or saxiphone, thanks to the hired lead guitarist.

Berlin subsequently took the stage, and performed their hits such as the catchy, synthesizer-melodic "No More Words", "(Riding On) The Metro", "Sex (I'm A.....)", and "Take My Breath Away". My friend, who also saw Berlin in 1987, said that the show is now less raunchy. Lead singer Terri Nunn took her wireless microphone down both aisles of the audience during the band's set, in very high heels, which she later discarded for the last two songs.

The Fixx headlined, and looked and sounded no different from their heyday of 1983. The lead singer, Cy Curnin, has the same haircut seen in numerous videos of yesteryear. He introduced the band's trademark lead guitarist, Jamie West-Oram, as depicting the sound of the 1980s "minus the shoulder pads". The headline set included all of the Fixx's hits, like "Stand Or Fall", "Deeper And Deeper", "Are We Ourselves", "Secret Separation", "The Sign Of Fire", "One Thing Leads To Another", "Red Skies (At Night)", and an encore of "Saved By Zero".

All four of the above artists have new albums planned for this Autumn. I often regard the 1980s as the final frontier of popular music, because of its exploration of the synthesizer, overall eccentricity, and music video. What new has the 1990s offered? I believe that 1980s music will eventually make a gigantic turnaround in terms of how people view it in the grand scheme of popular music. Perhaps that sounds extravagant.

[****1/2] - Steven T.


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