Bananarama @ Arena Birmingham, UK – 23rd November 2017

Posted by Bianca on Thursday Nov 23, 2017 Under 80s, Pop

Gig Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with Photography by Bianca Barrett

To Arena Birmingham on a Winter’s evening to spend the evening in the company of three friends who formed a band in the early 80’s. They went on to massive success – including a listing in the Guinness World Records as the all female group with the most chart entries in the world!  With 10 top #10 singles in the UK, they went on to sell over 40 million records. Being in the right place at the right time paid of for them and the friends are reformed in their original line up – welcome Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward and Siobhan Fahey – hey hey it’s Bananarama.

Bananarama

So, Bananarama first came to attention  in ’82 with The Fun Boy Three on their Top #5 hit ‘It Aint What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)’ followed by their lead top #5 hit ‘Really Saying Something’ and Top #4 ‘Shy Boy.’ Bananarama’s kooky tomboy looks and slightly bedraggled look, with back-combed hair, checked shirts and dungarees and braces, was the total antithesis of the New Romantic over the top ostentatious glamour, and their ‘girl next door’ vibe, plus singing in unison rather than harmony.   Their second album took on more serious subjects including ‘Rough Justice’ about social apathy and ‘Robert De Niro’s  Waiting’ about date rape.

By ’86 they’d hooked up with influential 80s pop and high-NRG svengalis Stock, Aiken and Waterman (SAW) after they heard Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’which saw the girls get dancier, more commercial and far more glam and hey, hey, gave them massive international success.

Bananarama

Bananarama

In ’88, Fahey decided the direction of the band was not for her, and she left, going to form Shakespears Sister with Marcella Detroit.  Woodward and Ballin continued, initially recruiting Jacquie O’Sullivan to take Fahey’s place, and then dropping back to a twosome. They continued recording as a duo and re-released previous albums and singles with various differing remixes. For the last decade or so, they have been an active part of the 80s retro scene appearing at the increasing number of festivals and events celebrating the music of that moment in time.

So this tour marks several things. Firstly, Fahey is back in the fold for the first time since ’88 (bar a rare couple of occasions over the past 30 years), and remarkably it’s the first time the original line-up has put on a full tour. It’s is also 35 years since the band had their first hit, and the lasses are now in their mid-fifties…

Bananarama

Bananarama

The crowd tonight at the arena are up for a party. It’s not a full capacity gig, but several thousand have turned out tonight, mostly female, and many wearing red flashing teeny-bop horns on their heads (which when the band take to the stage the notices saying they’ll return to that at a later time in the set). The music in the lead up is classic 80s and Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ is blasting from the speakers (what a great track!), getting the punters in the mood to party.

Set starts off, with full band in tow, with ‘Nathan Jones’ (he’s been gone too long you know), and dressed in black glittered suits, the trio make a grand entrance from the rear of the stage. Woodward announces “How you doing? Bananarama at your service – she’s (Fahey) back. Finally. After 30 years. Didn’t take you long then…. “

Bananarama

Bananarama

Tonight’s set is one of all their hits. Next up the duo of  more series hits, albeit delivered  in a non-serious way ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’ and ‘Rough Justice.’  Their first ever song (in Swahili) ‘Aie a Mwana’. The hits keep coming ‘ Cruel Summer’, ‘Shy Boy’, ‘Really Sayin’ Something’. A nod to Shakespeares Sister with ‘Stay’, sees Dallin and Woodward no match for Marcella’s Detriot’s vocals; however it does give Fahey and opportunity to make a grand entrance mid song, with that deep dark segment of the song that was hers. We then get SAW high-NRG Bananarama with ‘I Heard A Rumour’, ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Venus’ (with the massive screen behind them emblazoned with flames, and an encouragement from Fahey to ‘scream’ at the appropriate time). Then a sing-a-long a chorus to ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ and quick break and encore to an early single ‘It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)’ and another massive SAW produced hit ‘Love In The First Degree’.

Bananarama

So. I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. It could have been a car crash; previous reviews had so no, they were actually good fun. And indeed in lots of ways they were. Full respect to the three girl-friends, who formed a group and had (unlikely) massive success. And they paved the way for the likes of The Spice Girls and every girl group that followed, that all female acts can have massive success. The trio have always been kooky, and there was an element of them mucking around between them. Their support band were tight; the on screen graphics behind them taking glimpses of videos from the past, or feasting full on OTT graphic regalia; and there was certainly some practice that went into the trio’s choreography tonight. I like my music on the alternative side, so I found their early hits more ‘produced’ and less quirky and while SAW pop machine factory did indeed produce a couple of great hits with a number of artists, what I was reminded off was sadly how much I disliked their high-NRG take. Take a Bananarama show for what it is, sing the tunes, party with the trio and dance away. For those who love the 80s, you’ll have a blast on this re-kindled Bananarama tour.



Setlist:
Nathan Jones
Robert De Niro’s Waiting
Rough Justice
Aie a Mwana
Cruel Summer
Trick of the Night
Shy Boy / Boy Trouble
Really Sayin’ Something
Cheers Then
Stay
Preacher Man
I Heard A Rumour
More Than Physical
I Can’t Help It
I Want You Back
Venus
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

Encore
It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)
Love In The First Degree

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