July 13, 2024

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Live review: The reincarnation of the ‘Abducted by the 80s’ show hitting the Tampa Bay venue … Video, Photos

Wang Chung, Men Without Hats, and Naked Eyes have joined forces to create a musical extravaganza that transports audiences to the heart of the neon-soaked, synth-driven decade.

Get ready to dance, sing along, and relive the magic of the 80s with this unforgettable music tour. English New Wave band Wang Chung has found global success throughout its 45-year history behind such hits as “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” “Dance Hall Days,” “Let’s Go!” and more. Men Without Hats told the world “You can dance if you want to” – and the world listened!

Since their formation in 1978, the band has been at the forefront of electronic pop music, creating worldwide anthems of joy and positivity, like “The Safety Dance” and “Pop Goes the World.” Naked Eyes helped pioneer the British synth pop movement that would become synonymous with the early 80s, powered by the monumental success of “Always Something There to Remind Me,” which emerged as a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Combined, these bands have recorded 18 Billboard Top 100 hits, including eight top 10 hits. Come dance to the hits and get Abducted By the 80s!

Decades-oriented concert tours are nothing new, offering nostalgic fans a buffet of popular, familiar acts playing their hits in quick sets just long enough to offer…well, something there to remind us of a time and place in our past.

2024 is seeing several 80s tours hit the concert trail, with one finding its way to Clearwater’s sumptuous Ruth Eckerd Hall Saturday evening.

The incarnation of the ‘Abducted by the 80s’ show hitting the Tampa Bay venue included an array of colorful pop acts who realized their chart success with polished songs and productions largely after the quirky, earlier ‘New Wave.’

Show opener Naked Eyes, principally comprised of the honeyed voice of vocalist Pete Byrne, brought slightly re-tooled versions of numbers like “What In The Name Of Love” and their signature reading of Bacharach/David’s “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.” This evening, the latter was a mild rockabilly interpretation similar in delivery to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” elicited a rousing sing-along with the large turnout at Eckerd Hall, setting the stage for the evening’s remembrances.

The Motels (these days, aka Martha Davis and the Motels) provided a change in tone and mood for the evening, playing a set that reminded everyone why their brand of atmospheric, contemplative material captured the Zeitgeist when first released. The ageless Davis was in fine voice and form, especially on radio standards “Only The Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer.”

Men Without Hats, electro-poppers originally hailing from Montreal but based these days in Victoria, BC, are obviously known globally for the staple “Safety Dance.” However, as this writer can attest having grown up in a northern border town, the band enjoyed a long run of catchy, energetic chart toppers in Canada throughout the 80s, including “Pop Goes the World,” “Moonbeam,” and “I Like.” Led by whirling dervish frontman Ivan Doroschuk, the Men (plus clan member Sahara Sloan) put all of these on display in an electric set that had the entire audience up and dancing from first to last note. Doroschuk is as energetic and demonstrative on stage as audiences remember him from his 80s heyday. The closing number, an extended reprise of “Safety Dance,” transformed Ruth Eckerd Hall to as close to a dance club as it ever has been!

The closing set from headliners Wang Chung underscored a strongly evocative, almost-cinematic, thread in both the dramatic imagery invoked in its imaginative songs and film soundtrack work.

Fronted by the duo of longtime frontman Jack Hues, with his signature delivery that’s slightly arch with unmistakable panache, and bassist/vocalist Nick Feldman, the group put on a display that reminded the audience of how its top-selling music traversed the gamut from rousing electric pop to memorable film soundtracks like “To Live And Die In L.A.”

An unlikely but spirited diversion from the band’s norm was Feldman’s version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, with clever replacement of key phrases with “Have Fun” and “Wang Chung”. And, of course, this was the perfect segue way to the band’s rousing universal party anthem, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” In that song is the line “the ship of fools is sailing on.” On this evening, that reference to the 1965 Stanley Kramer film suggested to this writer an irresistible metaphor to where our ship of…passengers…is headed. “Party like it’s 2024”?

Closing out the evening was the band’s signature “Dance Hall Days,” an irresistible shuffle that’s a tidy of the band’s imaginative sensibility, perfectly encapsulated by the line “Take your baby by the wrist, And in her mouth an ameythst.” In another universe, I could imagine Wang Chung delivering that lyric in a Bertolucci film like Il Conformista—testament to the band’s imaginative powers years later.

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