On Wednesday, it was time to trip through the attic looking for boxes filled with neon. After collecting the stash, I pushed down my leg warmers, put that scrunchy up on the side, put in a couple of cubes of watermelon Bubblicious, and went out with my He-man wearing a plastic belt and giant hoop earrings. The Retro Futura concert came to the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick and we were invited to attend*.
For the uninitiated, this concert featured the musical stylings of Howard Jones, The English Beat, Men Without Hats, Modern English, and Katrina Leskanich. These are not the über-popular 80s bands that current 20-something retro hipsters listen to; this was the mecca for true believers.
Our attire was sufficient to fit in with the brightly stickered and fluorescent rockers from the glory days. We left our friends behind and motored out to the venue.
If you park in one of the New Brunswick Parking Authority lots (because really, who would give a valet the keys to their Ferrari?), the State Theatre New Jersey has prepaid vouchers for $13 that will cover your parking. Past the courteous security station and ticketing, the straightforward digs sold t-shirts and posters on the side. Faux purple orchids framed the Riki snack bar directly ahead. On the side free cups and filtered water awaited the parched vocal chords of sing-along rockers. The restrooms were clean and free of the wear one might expect in a theatre originally built for vaudeville troops and silent film. Though they were not completely automated and modernized, the fixtures and flooring were definitely younger than the Billboard Hits of the night’s artists.
Katrina kicked off the show with “Rock n’ Roll Girl,” taking us back to the decade of angst-free music; walking on sunshine through a happier time of youth and childhood nostalgia. It was hard to wipe that stupid grin off my face during her performance. Her backup vocalist and keyboardist harmonized brilliantly and won the Cyndi Lauper standout supporting artist of the night for the concert.
Paul Young was no longer quite hot enough to grab the chain for a bucket of water, but still moved around the stage like he just got out of a time-traveling elevator from three decades ago.
Modern English seemed to demand to behave like the crowds and groupies of yesteryear, and one could feel their age more than the other groups because they seemed to ignore it instead of embrace it as a sign of accomplishment.
English Beat brought the crowd out of its Labyrinth of confusion with energy and optimism. The rows were wide enough for everyone to get up and dance without needing to fill the isles, though the hardcore fans crowded the stage doing a modified version of the truffle shuffle.
After a significant break to set up all of the LED lights, the projector system, and sync the music, Howard Jones was ready to take the stage. He began, “Returning from the far side of the galaxy… tonight, I just want to get to know you well.”
Coming out in sunglasses that protected his eyes from a jacket that singlehandedly caused a pre-fashion week shortage of sequins, Men Without Hats frontman started and ended letting us know that we could dance if we want to. And we did.
Surprisingly, the lighting and speaker systems of the theatre matched or outdid any of those brought by the presenters. Credit to the management for investing in quality systems to handle the volume and stylings of the variety of concerts at this venue.
Amid the PAC-Man shirts, plaid jeans, and cocktail dresses of former rockers, the 80’s child part of me relived memories of lying on shag carpet singing along to the cassette player. Between this and the pinball arcade, I believe I can check off “relive the eighties” of my bucket list.
8-bit extra life bonus round: how 80s are you?
Count the number of retro references you recognized in this post to receive your radical rating.
26-1980 Totally righteous dude(ttes)
7-8 Care bear stare
3-4 Gag me with a spoon
0-2 Barf me out
*we were invited to see the show to facilitate a review, all opinions are our own