June 26, 2015 China Crisis & Men Without Hats Bring Excitement to Revolution Amityville, NY 6-19-15
The New Wave movement during the 1980s was abundant, with a large pallet of bands all different from one another. Often stereotyped by less knowledgeable listeners, the scene was in fact filled with acts who created their own identities using synthesizers as well as live traditional Rock instruments like bass, guitar, and drums. Two of the scene’s most distinctive acts during its peak were England’s China Crisis and Canada’s Men Without Hats. While China Crisis’ success centered primarily in the European region early on, their 1985 album Flaunt the Imperfection, followed by 1986’s What Price Paradise, rightfully saw them break into the US charts. Then there was Montreal’s Men Without Hats, who broke it back in 1982 with the single “The Safety Dance,” which to this day is one of the most recognized dance tracks around. Fast forward three decades and both bands are actively creating new music as well as touring around the world. With China Crisis returning to the USA for a brief string of shows in support of their latest album, Autumn in the Neighbourhood, and Men Without Hats on the road for a line of dates, the two groups’ paths crossed for a very special one night only performance at Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville, NY on Friday, June 19th.
Kicking off at around 8 PM to get the party started was local Long Island ’80s cover band The Retromantics. Fitting in nicely with the theme of the evening, vocalist Christian Dryde, drummer Pat Bennette, keyboardist Jeff Binder, and guitarist Mike Dudolevitch rocked through a killer set of tracks including Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me,” The Cult’s “Fire Woman,” Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” and so much more. They had just the right energy to get bodies moving on the floor and the tight sound to give each classic track its due respect.
Later on the DJ spun some of the best deeper cuts from the ’80s while everyone anxiously awaited China Crisis. With founding members vocalist/keyboardist Gary Daly and guitarist/vocalist Eddie Lundon at the core of the group, China Crisis achieved five Top 40 singles and three Top 40 albums in the UK between 1982 and 1985. Mixing jazzy textures, groovy beats, ambient synthesizers, and smooth vocals, China Crisis’ songs still resonate years later. While remaining active into the new millennium, most of their touring has been abroad, but in 2014 they graced American soil as part of the Retro Futura Tour with Howard Jones, Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins, Midge Ure of Ultravox, and Katrina of Katrina and The Waves. Provoking an extremely positive reaction to their opening set on the Summer 2014 tour, China Crisis were inspired to return to the US this year after releasing the aforementioned Autumn in the Neigbourhood, a crowdfunded album that marks their first release since 1994’s Warped by Success. Still playing their music regularly on SirusXM channel First Wave, Long Island native and host on the station, Larry the Duck was on hand to give China Crisis a fitting introduction just prior to their performance.
Daly and Lundon walked onto the stage with big smiles as the packed room gathered close to the stage to praise the band for returning to the South Shore of Long Island for the first time in over thirty years. Overwhelmed with excitement, Daly even snapped a photo of the crowd for a keepsake to mark the special moment. The band started off with 1986’s “Arizona Sky,” and Daly was immediately moving around the small stage as Lundon strummed away on the guitar providing strong background vocals. Both Daly and Lundon knew they had a lot of crowd to cover with their North American fans and went into the haunting 1982 track “African and White” with its irresistible bass line that had fans joining in with the dancing. Catching everyone high on excitement, the band interjected the new track “Autumn in the Neighbourhood,” which recaptures the same cool vibes China Crisis produced back in the ’80s. Seeing that the song was received very well by many who were hearing it for the first time, Lundon took over on lead vocals for another newbie by the name of “Fool.” For this guitar driven piece, Lundon provided intense, passionate vocals to match the straightforward lyrics.
Next the band mixed in their cover of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late Baby,” also on their latest album. This classic tune translated perfectly for China Crisis’ style. Playfully enticing the audience to head over to the merchandise table to purchase a copy of Autumn in the Neighbourhood, Daly did not need to sell the new material too much because this crowd was thoroughly digging what they were hearing. Bringing the set back to the past with a bang, “Gift of Freedom” began the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the quintessential Flaunt the Imperfection album, followed by “You Did Cut Me,” “Strength of Character,” and “Black Man Ray.” The track selection was flawless, cornering some of the album’s biggest highlights and no doubt fan favorites, as many sung along.
Giving Lundon the chance to shine again on lead vocals, “Wishful Thinking” filled the air with warm textures that could be felt from the front of the stage to the back bar area. Engaging the audience with his colorful stage presence, Daly smiled, laughed, and made faces at the audience any chance he had and really broke into a funky fun dance for the synth drive “King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)” before the upbeat 1983 cut “Working With Fire and Steel.” As it was getting late, and with no one wanting to say goodnight, China Crisis offered two final songs with “No More Blue Horizons” and the mesmerizing early piece “Christian.” Overall, their return to North America was nothing but a success. The small club atmosphere played to the advantage of their relaxing music, and immediately following their set many went over to buy copies of the new album and take photos with the band. Hopefully China Crisis will make the trip across the Atlantic again very soon for more shows.
Following a brief intermission for a set change, Men without Hats was on the stage in no time. Led by vocalist Ivan Doroschuk, Men without Hats’ hiatus concluded in 2010 when the founder reformed the band for good. Releasing the highly impressive Love in the Age of War in 2012, their first album in eight years, Men without Hats re-inspired interest in their ever hooky tunes. With a lineup consisting of James Love, along with keyboardists Lou Dawson and Rachel Ashmore, the band has a nice mix of talented musicians for the new generation.
As Doroschuk took to the stage with an acoustic guitar, many were thrown off as he began to strum and play “The Safety Dance” in a slow acoustic style with subtle backing vocals from his band. Some even turned and looked at one another wondering what was going on, but this was all brilliantly done by design as immediately following, Doroschuk put down the acoustic guitar and unleashed into dancing as the keyboards took on a heavy tone for newer song “This War.” Igniting a hard EMB type feel a mosh pit almost broke out, immediately waking up the room. With everyone’s attention fixed on the stage, Doroschuk took it back to the beginning with “Antarctica,” “I Got the Message,” and “Ideas for Walls” from the 1982 debut album Rhythm of Youth.
Keeping his energy level high, despite the late hour of night, Dorsochuk was vividly animated in his delivery as he went into another classic with “I Like.” Possessing a voice which has not altered much, if at all, since the original recordings of the songs, Doroschuk received a sea of applause following each song. Playing on with other songs like 2012’s “Head Above Water” and 1987 hit single “Pop Goes the World,” the band kept the punchy mix of synth, guitar, and heavy back beat going, assuring that everyone dance. Throwing in a killer cover of ABBA’s “SOS,” Dorsochuk bounced around, carefree and having a blast performing. Thankfully for all who made it out to spend their Friday night with Men Without Hats, the band did in fact do a just full electric rendition of “The Safety Dance,” which everyone rejoiced in, before the night was through.
Literally rocking early into Saturday morning, Men Without Hats’ return to Revolution Bar & Music Hall for the first time since 2012 was welcomed with open arms. In the words of Doroschuk, “Sure, lots has changed in music over the last few decades, but the world still loves a hooky song with a bit of edge that can get you thinking.” Long Island could not have agreed more, so be sure to get out there and have a ball with Men Without Hats as they will be co-headlining Canada’s Festival of Friends with The Psychedelic Furs and Big Wreck August 7th-9th.