Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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One time member of one of the most successful American female bands of all time and pop icon in her own right; this singer is returning to the UK on a 7 date mini-tour which starts off tonight in Birmingham’s Town Hall. Following the recent chart success of new single ‘Sun’, one time Go-Go and pop goddess Belinda Carlisle is here tonight to give us a clue as to whether Birmingham is indeed heaven.

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Carlisle started out as a punk drummer before founding The Go-Go’s with Jane Wiedlin. The Go-Go’s went onto become one of the most successful American bands of the early 1980s, helping usher new wave music and becoming the first all-female band in rock history to ever achieve a number 1 album with their 1981 multi-platinum debut, ‘Beauty and the Beat.’ When the band split in ’85 nothing was stopping Carlisle and she embarked on a solo career and a succession of successful hit albums beckoned. ‘Heaven on Earth’ made top 5 in the UK charts featuring international hit singles ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’, ‘I Get Weak’ and ‘Circle in the Sand.’ Carlisle has subsequently released 7 solo albums and this year sees the release of her greatest hits, ‘The Collection’, featuring a couple of new tracks including ‘Sun’ her first single in nearly 17 years.

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Tonight’s audience is an eclectic mix of avid fans from a mixture of backgrounds – a few keen and enthusiastic individuals keen to catch up with her after the gig at the stage door.

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But they will have to wait a little as first up on stage is American pop-rock singer/songwriter Gabe Lopez. “Who is this Californian Gabe Lopez and why is he in Brum?” He asks us, before telling us he’s of Mexican and Irish descent and is here because he co-wrote and produced Carlisle’s new single ‘Sun’ and she invited him on this mini-tour. It’s his first time in the UK (he doesn’t get out much!), the first time he’s played live to a UK audience and he loves us.

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Lopez is solo on stage, with backing track, electric guitar and a rising and unique voice – he starts off with ‘Summertime’ which is initially just vocals before turning all pop-rock dance. He has an album on pre-sale entitled ‘It’s Obvious It’s Obvious’. Catch it now, while it’s cheap, he tells us. This set is a mixture of pop-rock dance and ballads – including his take on U2‘s ‘One.’ He’s a happy soul, engaging with true vocal talent – check him out online or catch him on this tour.

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Quick break and we pop to the various bars in the Town Hall before taking our seats (it’s a full house tonight) for pop icon Belinda Carlisle. Big cheer as she takes to the stage, the seated stalls crowd are already on their feet. She has a six piece full band with her and tonight’s ride starts off as she’s into ‘Runaway Horses.’

“Hello Birmingham…” as the lyrics sing out to the next pop hit: “We dream the same dream, we want the same thing…. Oooohhhhh…” we sing. It’s been around a decade since she played Brum and since then she’s released a couple of singles she tells us. It was her son that found her recent song and she acknowledges her support act and talent Lopez that gave her recent hit ‘Sun’, which with support from Radio 2 made the top 40. Carlisle is mid-fifties, but looks a damn sight younger and fitter than her years, as we’re into another hit: ‘I Get Weak.’ The crowd are here for the hits and that’s exactly what she’s here to give us: sing along to ‘Circles in the Sand.’ Some tracks she hasn’t played live before or for a while – ‘Valentine’ was first aired during an Australian tour in 2013. We bop along to the hispanic inspired ‘La Luna’ – while ‘Goodbye Just Go’ is clearly Carlisle taking out her anger at her man.

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Back to upbeat ‘Summer Rain’ and then we clap along with her for ‘Big Scary Animal’ – though neither of those appear to be in sight. And those hits keep coming – ‘Leave the Light On’ – everyone’s dancing, going back to those 90s heydays. And then we all join in…  ‘Live Your Life Be Free.’

Just over an hour and we’re into the encore ‘A Woman and a Man’ which gets our feet a-tapping and our heads a-bopping and for some in the audience, true over-exuberant dancing. And now for a mixture of Edith Piaf meets Grace Jones as we get her take on ‘La Vie En Rose’ all danced up.

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“You might know this song.…” as it starts off acoustic….. And we sing along with the first verse before we’re into the full live version. ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth.’

There are many die-hard fans here tonight, who have travelled quite a way to see their beloved Belinda. They are gonna be waiting at the stage door for her. Carlisle is very professional and  clearly enjoying the first date of this small tour; these days there’s no need for big tours  – she’s been there and done that. Nicely sized venue to enjoy herself and showcase her long repertoire of songs to her loyal fans. So did Birmingham live up to their expectations? For them it clearly was indeed – Heaven on Earth.

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Setlist:
Runaway Horses
(We Want) the Same Thing
Sun
I Get Weak
In Too Deep
California
Circle in the Sand
Valentine
La Luna
Vision of You
Goodbye Just Go
Summer Rain
Big Scary Animal
Leave a Light On
Live Your Life Be Free

Encore:
A Woman and a Man
La Vie En Rose
Heaven is a Place on Earth

3 Responses to “Belinda Carlisle + Gabe Lopez at The Town Hall, Birmingham, UK – 13th May 2014”

  1. Jeff Keetley Says:

    Excellent review . The still beautiful Belinda never fails to deliver a great show, what a voice…a real superstar!

  2. Belinda Carlisle + Gabe Lopez @ Town Hall, Birmingham – 13 May 2014 » Musings of a Creative Mind Says:

    […] for Gig Junkies; pictures Ken […]

  3. Dawn Moran Says:

    How disappointed was I…the echo on her mic was so strong I could not hear any of the words she sang it all just came out as muffled noise..by the end of song 4 I wanted to go home..having never seen her before live I can only say it was rubbish.

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