The Eighties Bands That Will Not Stop: Alright ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to play “Spot the Original Members in ’80s Bands.” We’ve written about package ’80s shows before, usually the bigger ones that take place at the Microsoft Theatre and the Greek Theatre. In general, they are a ton of fun if you don’t take them too seriously. But this one at the House of Blues, Anaheim, tested even our patience.
That said, L.A. ska vets the Untouchables sounded superb on Friday night, despite the fact that the only remaining original member is frontman Jerry Allen. Sorry, it might not be fair, but you can get away with way more if you only have one original member and it’s the singer.
They played the hits — “I Spy for the FBI,” Twist N Shake” and “Free Yourself” — and they sounded spot on despite Allen suffering with microphone issues. The same can’t be said for When in Rome II.
This is where it gets really silly. When in Rome is the English new wave band that consisted of Clive Farrington, Andrew Mann, and keyboardist Michael Floreale. They had a big hit with “The Promise,” a song that was later used on Napoleon Dynamite. It got messy later, when they all tried to plant their flag in the band name. Farrington and Mann perform as When in Rome UK, or as “Farrington + Mann” when they play the States. Meanwhile, Floreale has assembled a new line up and that’s what performed at the House of Blues.
Fronting the band is Tony Fennell, who played in a later version of Ultravox (after Midge Ure), and more recently played rhythm guitar in hair metal band Enuff Z’Nuff. To be fair, he added a bit of rock swagger to songs like “Haunted.” And it was interesting to hear him run through Ultravox’s “All Stood Still” with this band, having heard Midge Ure sing it at the Ace Hotel last week. But “The Promise” sounded all wrong. Farrington + Mann occasionally perform the song at other ’80s concerts, and they do it right. Sorry fellas.
It’s a similar story with Bow Wow Wow. Original singer Annabella Lwin tours as “Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow,” but this version features just bassist Leigh Gorman from the classic band. Singers seem to come and go with alarming regularity and taking the role right now is jazz singer Dame Madelyn. She is, by all accounts, a fine vocalist but she doesn’t seem up to the zaniness of this job at all — the whoops and coos and shrieks that are all part of the Bow Wow Wow madness. But hey, there’s always “I Want Candy.”
The saga of Gene Loves Jezebel is storied and troubling. Twin brothers Michael and Jay Aston remain at odds and each has their own version of the band. This was Michael’s, the version based in the States, though Jay’s GLJ was recently in town for the Cruel World Fest. Fans generally consider Jay’s to be the bonafide band.
That said, this band was great fun at the HOB. Possibly the best of the evening. Michael preened and pranced around the stage like the gothic Marc Bolan that he is, bringing out his daughter and friends on her birthday to sing a raucous “Gorgeous” with him. “Desire,” meanwhile, was simply epic. Not bad, sir.
On to the headliners. Like the Untouchables, the Motels are still fronted by their one original member, Martha Davis. And again, having the right voice on “Suddenly Last Summer” makes all the difference in the world.
Davis has assembled a great band that can do “So LA” and of course “Only the Lonely” justice. And ultimately, the Motels feels like a real band. Which, on a night like this, is impressive.
The Eighties Bands That Will Not Stop