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Party at Tatton Park: Back to the 80s

Jo Nightingale enjoys Temptation followed by Love Action but still has time to get stuck into the Lexicon of Love

Published on August 3rd 2009.


Party at Tatton Park: Back to the 80s

I don’t do the 80s revival, let’s be clear about that. Don’t do the clothes as I’m old enough to have looked an arse in them once already, and I don’t do nostalgia gigs. If an act from the 80s was any good, basically, I’m still listening to them - and they don’t have to tour with Limahl and Brother Beyond to draw the crowds.

It was hugely enjoyable and strangely unifying to recapture one’s lost youth in a field full of like-minded revellers, all intent on having a great time with no sniff of piss bombs.

In other words, I don’t do the 80s revival because it makes me feel old and I’m a musical snob. But this is different: this is The Human League, ABC and Heaven 17. Titans of early 80s electro, who I was too young to see the first time, playing at the end of my road.

And, in a totally unrelated argument, the event in the deer park of Tatton, is one of those lovely stately home picnic things. Paper plates, faux champagne, a group of friends around a checked cloth – maybe even a straw boater. Yes, Victorian nostalgia is something I can definitely get with even if the music style doesn’t quite fit.

Heaven 17 start the proceedings. Outrageously placed at the bottom of the bill, they are also allowed just five songs to get a crowd that’s barely cracked open the Magners enjoying itself.

I should declare an interest, here: Heaven 17’s The Luxury Gap and ABC’s Lexicon of Loveoccupied either side of my first C90 cassette. This was back when you knew the person whose albums you were pirating; in my case an impossibly glamorous workmate of my dad’s with a David Sylvian fringe.

To me, the ‘Teen were godlike. They sounded dark, moody, gritty, and they weren’t The Beatles. So I’m a little disappointed to hear the mighty ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry’ sounding so lightweight, though I suppose it always did go “woo, woo”.

‘Come Live With Me’ and ‘Let Me Go’ strike a moodier tone, and I’m just starting to let my fringe fall across my eyes when a considerably danced-up version of ‘Temptation’ reminds me that the 90s happened. How rude.

The turnaround times are incredible, and our group has barely discussed Glenn Gregory’s hair when Go West take the stage. Although the average crowd-member is probably in their early 40s I’m surrounded by a real range of people, from girls in neon legwarmers to pillars of the North Cheshire community. I spot a group of 20-somethings getting down to ‘The King of Wishful Thinking’, and go and stand near them.

Phil Oakey starts a chorus of 'Don't You Want Me Baby'

Belinda Carlisle is up next and I’m well outside my comfort zone. But as I approach the front to grab some photos, I realise how successfully she’s working the crowd. The bulk of the fold-away picnic chairs are empty as she belts out hits like ‘Weak in the Presence of Beauty’, ‘Leave a Light on for Me’ and ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’. So are a lot of the champagne bottles, it has to be said. Empty that is.

With barely a pause for breath, a man in a white suit smooches onto the stage. It would have been nice to see the gold lamé, but Martin Fry knows his picnic clobber. He shoots that poison arrow before launching into not one but three songs I don’t know – does he not realise this is a nostalgia-fest? Ahem, I mean: where are the ground-breaking classics like ‘All of My Heart’ and ‘Look of Love’? Oh here they are, sounding poppier than I remember, but the Fry voice is impressively intact.

The 80s bandwagon keeps on turning and headliners The Human League quickly follow ABC, to a palpable shift of gear. They have two, still very glamorous, female vocalists, two keytars, and Phil Oakey in rock star shades (though it’s now dark).

They have coloured lights and boundless energy but, more importantly, they have ‘Love Action’, ‘The Lebanon’ and ‘Mirror Man’, and they sound fabulous. And just when you think it can’t get any better, everyone’s on their feet for ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, ‘Electric Dreams’ and fireworks over Tatton Mere – it is indeed a wonderful life.

It’s good to have one’s expectations confounded every once in a while, and tonight turned out to be the exact opposite of what I’d sold myself. Rather than being a sedate social occasion in an English country pasture it was booze-infused, packed and impossible to talk. And yes, it was an unashamed 80s-fest, with the bands wheeled out conveyor belt-style to deliver short, slightly muzak-tinged sets.

But it was hugely enjoyable and strangely unifying to recapture one’s lost youth in a field full of like-minded revellers, all intent on having a great time with no sniff of piss bombs. And if the electro-tinged heroes of my early youth weren’t quite as good as I remember there’s no disappointment as we join the crowds filing out.

Some real photos of the gig will follow later today.

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RonsterMonsterAugust 3rd 2009.

Excellent evening, just a pity about the order . . . ABC were only average & The Human League rescued their set with the last two songs and a firework display . . . Heaven 17 & Go West were the real stars of the night . . . just brilliant and that's when we still had some drinks left !! . . Tatton is a top spot

AnonymousAugust 3rd 2009.

saw them all a few months ago - and will continue to watch them - an absolutely wonderful night and I dont care how old or naff it makes me - took my very indie daughter to see them and she loved it - all hail the '80's - is using the word naff really naff? Also saw The Pretenders and Squeeze the other week and have a serious case of woman love, Chrissie Hynde is a god.

ShellAugust 3rd 2009.

FAB FAB FAB....FABULOUS! Taking me back to my school days, it didnt rain and we drank and danced the night away...Loving Abc, and most of all the Human League! fab!

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