I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist at a show… and I generally don’t care for audience sing-a-longs (I come to hear the artist, not drunk people that don’t know the lyrics). But Saturday night was a different, special sort of show with the perfect fans in attendance. Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins hasn’t played live for over 25 years, and came out of retirement for the newly rebranded Retro Futura tour (which was previously operating as Regeneration Tour). I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up, and that I never imaged I would have an opportunity to see them perform live. So at Saturday night’s stop at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, following the awesome sets by Howard Jones, Midge Ure (of Ultravox) and Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and the Waves), Tom Bailey and his fantastic new backing band absolutely blew away every expectation I had. It was as if, as a performer, he was in hibernation for the past quarter of a century and came out the same as he was in his prime to play this show. It was quite surreal. So getting back to that sing-a-long… the final song of the night was Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” (which a friend of mine captured on video from the audience) and everyone in attendance was so elated to see that man performing in front of them. As the song came to an end, the entire audience was on their feet, singing the chorus. Tom looked moved by the whole thing, stopped singing in mic, pulled out his ear monitors, motioned for his band to join him at the end of the stage, and it all came to a close acapella. A beautiful thing, and I think a way for us fans to let him know that we still love him, love his music, and want him to stay. A perfect ending, and maybe new beginning. “Hold me now, warm my heart… stay with me, let loving start, let loving start…”
What: Retro Futura Tour 2014
Who: Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey
Who: Howard Jones
Who: Midge Ure (from Ultravox)
Who: Katrina (Ex Katrina and The Waves)
Venue: Mountain Winery
Where: Saratoga, California
Promoter: AXS, Mountain Winery, and Silicon Valley Bank
When: August 30, 2014
Seating: Section 1, Row B, Seat 7 (second row middle section; also photo pass first three songs)
ALSO SEE REVIEW AT THUNDER VALLEY IN LINCOLN ON AUGUST 31: LINK
Doors at the beautiful Mountain Winery opened at 5:30 for the show with a 6:30 start time. There are a lot of awesome pre-show dining options at Mountain Winery, so the audience in the outdoor amphitheater grew fuller and fuller as the night wore on. The merch for this tour is pretty awesome, and there seemed to be a steady stream of people buying t-shirts, autographed CDs/DVDs and the like.
As mentioned, this is a rebranded/renamed edition of the long-running Regeneration Tour (which I covered last year), as there was an issue with the use of the name; thus going forward it is now the Retro Futura tour.
This year, as with last, Howard Jones remains as a co-headliner. The rest of the line-up is all changed, with of course the inclusion of Tom Bailey from Thompson Twins being the most exciting development on the concert circuit for New Wave fans since… well, I can’t think of anything that really compares.
The full ongoing tour has included China Crisis, but they were not on the bill at this stop on the Retro Futura tour. Ordinarily Katrina Leskanich (formerly of Katrina and The Waves) performs before Midge Ure (from Ultravox), but Midge Ure had a plan to catch back to the UK for another gig, so he opened the show. They share a band, so he introduced Katrina when he was done and she came straight out and performed. Each played 30 minutes, there was a 30 minute break as they changed things over, then Howard Jones performed a 45 minute set, another break, and then Tom Bailey did a set I think a little past 45 minutes.
They announced that the “Secret Show” by Jay Siegen Presents at Mezzanine on Monday night will be a one off show featuring Tom Bailey and Howard Jones, and tickets are available now – LINK
Midge Ure (from Ultravox)
Midge Ure has been involved in music since the ’70s, as well as a number of bands including Thin Lizzy and Ultravox. His biggest hit as a solo artists was the song “If I Was” in 1985, and he is well known as the co-organizer of Band Aid and Live Aid with Bob Geldof, and co-wrote the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which has sold many millions of copies.
He has quite a fascinating history in music, crossing over into work with many different artists and genres of music. He is best known as the front man for Ultravox, which regrouped in 1979.
Candidly, I have not followed his career too closely over the years, but I really enjoyed his set and he put on a great show. Interestingly, he’s one of those people who seems like the were born to be the age at which they are currently – he looked great and seemed to be in top form in terms of his performance.
Below are the songs he played during his set:
- Hymn (Ultravox song)
- Fade to Grey (Visage song)
- Vienna (Ultravox song)
- If I Was
- Dancing With Tears in My Eyes (Ultravox song)
Below are some photos of Midge Ure performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):
Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and The Waves)
Katrina Leskanich was the singer for the English pop band, Katrina and The Waves. Their song, “Walking on Sunshine”, was a huge hit in 1985.
I really did not know anything about her prior to this tour, apart from the one song (which is fantastic – can’t think of a song that is quite like it in its joyousness).
When she came on stage, I was a bit surprised by her accent (which was born in Kansas, though lived in the UK since 1976, as her father was in the U.S. Air Force).
I enjoyed her set a lot, as she gave some context to her work, and I had no idea that the Bangles song, “Going Down To Liverpool” was a cover… that it was written by Kimberly Rew for Katrina and The Waves. I absolutely love that song.
This tour is the first she has played in the U.S. since the 80s.
Below is the list of songs she played during her set:
- Rock n Roll Girl
- Red Wine and Whiskey
- Going Down to Liverpool
- Every Step
- Do You Want Crying
- Walking On Sunshine
Below are some photos of Katrina performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):
I was lucky enough to see Howard Jones on the Regeneration Tour last year, and was totally floored by how awesome he was…
This time around, a year later (nearly to the day), my surprise was at how he has improved on what he put together last year. Everything just seemed amped up that much more. The gear looks that much more high tech and retro at the same time, and classy. And in terms of his performance, it was just so natural and sublime I didn’t want it to end.
He has all new rigs and claims to have his “Mobile Keyboard Device” (MKD) employed to much greater effect.
This year Howard Jones published an invitation video to his fans, talking about wearing orange to the show as well as a special new dance move…
He surprised me and I think the rest of the audience with his intro, as he was playing up at the back of the venue and made his way through and down to the stage – it was really awesome.
As mentioned in my review last year, Howard Jones is really an interesting figure (and legend really) in New Wave music, as he somehow came to fill a singular role in all of music. If you think of the 80s, there are hundreds of artists that came to the scene in that special decade, and in that many who were classified as “New Wave”.
With that, somehow Howard Jones and his classic songs truly played a huge role in literally defining what New Wave actually was.
Really, everything about him just screams New Wave… his vocal style, delivery, unapologetic synth-heavy songs, the themes found in his music, even the fact that he’s English… he is like the embodiment of New Wave.
But aside from all that, it needs to come down to the songs, and he has some of the most iconic 80s songs that were written and recorded.
He also came on the scene and got mainstream attention in 1983, which was early enough to really be a part of shaping it all.
If music is the soundtrack to our lives, anyone remotely into New Wave who was over 13 and under 30 at any time from 1983-1987 would have a Howard Jones song on their personal set list for life.
He wrote songs with words that had thought and meaning in them, not just words that rhyme. A thinker of the times, reflecting an age that in retrospect looks more and more preferable every day (at least for nostalgic souls like myself).
Like with last year’s show, he has arrange a new and extended version of “Things Can Only Get Better”, which transitions into a more modern-sounding techno version following the traditional song we all know, contrasting classic and contemporary.
All that preface out of the way, how was is actual performance?
Stunning. Better than last year.
Below are the songs he played at Mountain Winery Saturday night:
- The Human Touch
- Like to Get to Know You Well
- Everlasting Love
- No One Is to Blame
- The Prisoner
- What Is Love?
- Things Can Only Get Better
- Things Can Only Get Better (Techno version)
- New Song
His voice sounds exactly the same, and completely studio quality. He also seems to be loving every second on stage, celebrating this music… these hits that have been long ingrained into our minds like the grooves on the vinyl that they were originally recorded on.
Howard Jones has also somehow aged really well, so I would imagine from the third row back, anyone could imagine that they were transported back to 1985 or so, as the experience would have had to have been pretty much the same.
Below are some photos of Howard Jones performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):
Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey
As much as I may have gushed over this man in the opening, I really can’t say enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up.
As far as New Wave went, leading the movement for me (as true icons) was Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Howard Jones, Tears for Fears, and a few others as well but most certainly Thompson Twins.
Thompson Twins originally formed in 1977 in the UK. Many probably wonder about the name (I remember it was puzzling to people back in the 80s) – they were named after two detectives named Thompson and Thompson in the comic, The Adventures of Tintin.
Predominantly known as a trio, which is how they were in their most popular era between 1982 through 1986, there were other members that were involved at different times.
Tom Bailey was of course there in the very beginning, as a founding member on vocals and bass guitar. Alannah Currie became involved with the band early on, but wasn’t a full member until after the first album, A Produce of… (Participation). Joe Leeway (a former roadie) became involved in playing in the band circa 1981 as well.
Eventually, the band signed to Arista Records and fascinatingly, Thomas Dolby contributed to the album, Set, which included the hit single, “In the Name of Love”, which was a number one dance club hit in the U.S.
Originally, Bailey, Currie, and Leeway wanted to do a side project (to be called The Bermuda Triangle) to pursue music more in line with “In the Name of Love, and ultimately decided to reduce Thompson Twins down to just the three of them and other former members of the band were let go in 1982.
In 1983 and 1984 in particular, they broke huge internationally with a number of songs that are now staples of the 80s, including “How Me Now”. The 2984 album, Into the Gap, is really one of the most important albums to come out in the ’80s, as it really had such a unique sound that really defined what New Wave was all about. The follow-up, Here’s To Future Days was also excellent, but did not do as well commercially.
While that music and those hits (“Doctor, Doctor”, “King for a Day”, “Lay Your Hands on Me”, etc.) are what the band are most known for, I personally LOVED their later work (i.e. Queer). More dance-oriented, it was just as brilliant (though different) and I still listen to all of that music regularly to this day.
Eventually, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie became involved with one another romantically and had children, moving to her home country of New Zealand.
After the Babble project, Currie retired from music to pursue other interests. Joe Leeway works in hypnotherapy.
Tom Bailey has been involved with some music projects over the years, but nothing on the scale of Thompson Twins. This tour marks his first time playing as Thompson Twins in 27 years.
It’s really hard to describe what it was like seeing him perform Saturday night. Into The Gap in particular was such a key component of the soundtrack of my life growing up in the 80s.
I think the best way I can describe it is this (in some context that people might be able to wrap their heads around)…
Imagine if you were a huge fan of Michael Jackson circa Thriller. And, following Thriller and maybe Bad, Michael Jackson was whisked away into obscurity, never to be heard from again (no more music, no plastic surgery, no controversies, no weirdness, no death). And then, this year, he came out of no where with a new band and toured and played music from Thriller. And imagine he looked great and sounded and performed fucking amazing. That is what Tom Bailey coming back now is like for me.
When he first came out onto the stage, he looked very 80s retro (even wearing just one stylish glove) and arrived in darkness with a flashlight, which he shined out into the crowd. As if he was finding us.
He was so natural in his performance, you could never imagine he’d been away from Thompson Twins for more than 25 years.
He has recruited three touring members to bring his music to life – Amanda Kramer, Angie Pollock, and Emily Dolan Davies. Each did a magnificent job.
Tom never stood still for very long, with vocals throughout as well as playing keyboards/sythesizer, drum pads, and guitar.
The music was very faithfully recreated – with real precision throughout – even little flourishes that we remember from the original studio tracks. With the final song, “Hold Me Now”, the grooves etched into my mind decades ago longed for those backing vocals at the end of the song, and having brought the chorus out of the audience, he altered his voice to do those backing vocals himself.
I go to a lot of concerts and watch a lot of artists perform, but maybe more than any other, this one really moved me. I really started doing this (writing about shows and photographing them) in an effort to capture and archive what I believe are meaningful experiences between artists and fans, and with Tom on stage and taking photos of him with this comeback (or maybe “return” is a word better suited?), I felt as though I was in some small way fulfilling this obligation I’ve taken on in a way that feels like it has more meaning and importance than the typical show.
In any event, I loved every second he was on stage, and he has such unique energy and character it was a real joy to experience it all first hand.
Usually at Mountain Winery shows people start leaving circa the encore, because of the time it takes to get out of the parking lot, down the mountain, and some delay with a one lane bridge. But Tom Bailey had everyone so engrossed in the show, it seemed packed throughout his performance.
Below is a photo of Tom’s set list:
Below is the set list from the show Saturday night…
- Intro (We Are Detective)
- In the Name of Love
- Sister of Mercy
- You Take Me Up
- If You Were Here
- Love on Your Side
- Doctor! Doctor!
- King For A Day
- Hold Me Now
Below are some photos of Tom Bailey performing on stage (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo); apologies for the lack of photos of Amanda, Angie, and Emily – they were not lit up much during the first three songs in which I was doing photography – check out my follow-up feature at Thunder Valley for additional photos and better coverage: