Cape Cod Times August 2008

Rich Holmes

New wave bands the synthesis of fun

HYANNIS New wave bands of the '80s encompassed a spectrum of styles, from the ska and reggae rhythms of the Police and Madness, to the quirkiness of the Talking Heads, Lene Lovich and the Cars, the punky rebellion of the Clash and the Pretenders to the robotic grooves of Gary Numan and the Eurythmics. Some of it was serious, much of it was silly and nearly all of it was danceable.

The Regeneration Tour 2008, a collection of mainly English synth bands, is reviving the new romantic branch of new wave music. The five core bands of the tour came to Cape Cod Melody Tent and showed that while styles may have changed greatly in the past 25 years, strong vocals and hook-laden songs still can carry a concert.

The tour, proposed as an annual event, launched this year with five bands: Naked Eyes, ABC, A Flock of Seagulls, Belinda Carlisle and the Human League. At a few stops along the tour, other groups, including the Romantics, Tommy Tutone and Missing Persons, have joined in for a show. Flock of Seagulls, a late substitution for Dead or Alive, which bowed out for health reasons, gave the weakest performance of the core members at Tuesday night's concert...

..After a half-hour intermission during which a set of entirely white instruments, equipment stands and computer consoles was arranged on the circular stage, the Human League arrived to close the show. Of all the bands, it took its image most seriously. Supporting band members dressed in black, behind the banks of white electronics. The two original female singers dressed as go-go girls: high boots, short dresses, and piled-up hair. Lead singer Philip Oakey first appeared in a shapeless black gown, rectangular black shades and a shaved head to sing his opening number, "Mirror Man," a minor hit in the United States. With mechanistic moves, he lurched about the stage, delivering a line in his deep baritone, then dashing to another quarter to sing the next one.

Oakey stripped off the gown and shades after the first song, revealing that he, too, had donned the "Men in Black" look. Despite his deliberately robotic mannerisms, Oakey spoke warmly to the audience, graciously thanking them and introducing all the members of the band. He was the only former star that night to name his supporting musicians.

The Human League's love of all things synth may have been derived from German group Kraftwerk, but the rhythms had more to do with '60s American pop of four short verses, refrain and repeat. It had the crowd dancing to "Love Action (I Believe in Love)," "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," "The Sound of the Crowd," and its big hit, "Don't You Want Me."

New wave may be old hat, but good performances don't go out of style.