Let’s Rock, The Winter Retro Tour. SEE Arena Wembley 13.12.19
This was an odd one. A great evening and more of a festive 80s party than a gig. I came up here for this one with my gig buddy Dave (DPi) for one reason really- to see Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow. We had never seen her or met her before but Annabella is the sister of a mate of ours from Brum student days and we have caught up with again since all turning 50.
Annabella lives in California and gigs and tours from there, so a rare chance to see Bow Wow Wow songs performed in the UK.
Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow site: https://www.annabellalwin.com/
We were always going to enjoy the array of 80s bands on offer so went for it, but in the end we missed half of them, instead choosing to hang about in the Heineken Lounge with some of the bands. Annabella acquired some wristbands for us, which we were extremely grateful for so we could meet her – then a string of others started wandering in.
So this is a summary of a night out with some pics to mark what what a top night, but not like a normal gig. The whole thing was more of a big show. The crowd were more party goers than gig goers and a lot of sparkle about.
SEE Arena Wembley
I’ve never really liked the idea of seeing bands here and I’ve not done it much. The whole area, with the new Wembley outdoor stadium and all the hotels is just an entertainment village. Not much to speak of by way of real pubs. A few sports bars and an Irish pub close by are all I remember from football trips – usually rammed on matchday – or it’s hotel bars which can be hard to access for non-residents. More options up the high street end than Wembley Park tube approach.
I saw the Harlem Globetrotters touring basketball circus here when I was about 10 and maybe a Holiday on Ice show! Aside from that Blur in 1999, a Cure gig in 2017 and this one. That’s it.
Tonight the venue was all seated, a bit surprising and everyone seemed to stand from the off on the flat floor. Our seats were a few blocks back on the edge – easier to get in and out. This was not an event to be stuck in a middle of a row.
First out of the traps were Doctor and the Medics with a cover of Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ and their hit ‘Spirit in the Sky’. This was the start of a procession of quick changing acts playing two, three or four songs – bit like a live juke box. The backing band seemed something of a constant which facilitated this slick rotation on a single stage.
The show is one of a series of three similar events in Glasgow, Nottingham and here at Wembley Arena. The promoters do some summer outdoor ‘Let’s Rock’ 80s events as well.
Only time for a couple of Bow Wow Wow songs. ‘I want Candy’ – We want more… so we’ll have to find a full gig one day – next time we’re in LA eh 😎.
There are two blocks of bands tonight, starting at 7.30pm, 75 minutes each with an interval half way. The second half acts were ‘headliners’ and had longer sets, finishing with eight songs from Tony Hadley, the only one of the second half I watched. I could hear Nick Kershaw and Marc Almond from the main bar and I can only assume Jimmy Sommerville played. Yes there was a lot of beer involved tonight.
I wonder if gig reviewers from Q and NME ever miss entire gigs or have written them up based on an imagined experience from a distant bar – there must be some stories. Photographers have more of a problem with that scenario, although they usually only get a few songs from the front pit before they get thrown out, so theirs is a snapshot anyway. Weird to think they take all these fantastic pics and they’re tucked up in bed by the encores and never get to hear the best songs. How cruel.
Anyway, some of my heavily zoomed distant snaps of who I did see. I wouldn’t even vouch for the order but the camera never lies eh.
Then Jericho were not a band I remember particularly well but sounded good. I did recognise ‘Big Area’: https://youtu.be/peEnpGDjeeU
Peter Coyle, the voice of The Lotus Eaters played, and yes he did their brilliant first single ‘The First Picture of You’. A classic. Nice guy and one of the performers we caught up with later in the Heineken Lounge.
Lotus Eaters first hit: https://youtu.be/peEnpGDjeeU
The most Christmassy bit was Boney M. I thought they were all dead and even back in the day there are all sorts of rumours as to who was really singing. A fit young chap was fronting this but I wasn’t moved to extract my pocket camera. The crowd loved it 🙄.
Next up…I think…was Sonia, festively attired. I enjoyed her contribution.
After the overtly seasonal section it’s time for one of my old favourites. That sounds terrible doesn’t it but she is one of my favourites and I’m old and she’s old. Let’s just be honest an enjoy this: Toyah. This is the third time I’ve seen her this year, by chance, honest (not headlining), so maybe this is getting out of hand.
A band I have albums and singles by that I have never seen are Altered Images so a pleasure to see Clare Grogan at last. No sign of ‘Dead Pop Stars’ tonight. I guess it’s not very Christmassy…nor indeed ‘Happy Birthday’.
‘Dead Pop Stars’, Number 15 in John Peel’s Festive Fitfy in 1981, introduced by Uncle John himself: https://youtu.be/62XLy4I9AZg
That was half time. Off to the bar….for a long time. Dave has caught up with our mate Simon, who’s with sister Annabella in the Heineken Lounge and I’m waved over with some wristbands they’ve sorted 👍. That’s the music over with, aside from Tony Hadley’s set to finish the gig – a few Spandau Ballet songs, some ballads and some Christmas songs – yes of course this includes ‘Gold’. Good ole Tony.
Meanwhile, in the bar
Having been in the Heineken Lounge chatting for a bit we notice a few familiar faces wandering in and we are set in for the night, returning after Tony Hadley’s set, some of which follow, and had the closet thing I’ve got to a Christmas party this year. Loved it.
Great to meet Annabella after all this time and hear a bit about Bow Wow Wow. Peter Coyle of the Lotus Eaters was good to talk to – Liverpool music scene in the 80s – not sure anyone else recognised him (easier to spot when you’ve just seen him on stage).
I’m not sure who took the remaining pictures – probably Dave, maybe Toyah 🤔but my arms aren’t long enough for them to be selfies.
Bought The Doctor a pint while he was with us – big lad – and hey….Toyah popped in 😎. I confessed to having her name on the back of my Harrington jacket in 1980, at the London Rainbow. (…and in case my mate Chris M is reading this I mentioned the Mr Kyps gig and it clearly wasn’t you she was looking at.🙄)
…and a bit of football banter with Arsenal fan Tony.
Off we go into the Wembley Christmas lights. That was was weird one but a huge amount of fun.