Live from the Regeneration Tour!
It's finally here: The ultimate '80s roadshow -- the 2008 Regeneration Tour -- has landed in Tampa Bay. I'm here, backstage at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall, to bring to all the juicy scoop -- or at least make a noble effort.
The show is set to start at 7 p.m. with Naked Eyes, led by my new best friend Pete Byrne, taking the stage. I'll be handling the introductions and then attempting to literally stage-dive into my chair so I don't miss a single note. (Note to security personnel: Just kidding.)
I'll also try to post some pics during the night as well. In the meantime, feel free to fire away with comments and questions. I'll do my best to get you the answers. (First answer: boxers, with little firetrucks on them.)
5:45 pm: Mike Score of A Flock of Seagulls is walking around backstage. My first good deed of the night? Showing him where the restroom is. So all my hours here at the hall finally pay off.
6:50 pm: Just 10 minutes before I have to go slur my way through stage announcements. Cotton mouth sets in. Band members are wandering around freely backstage now. I just bumped into Chris Stainton from Rubix Cubed, the official '80s cover band of Stuck in the 80s. He's sporting a "Frankie Say" shirt. Nice tribute.
7:10 p.m.: We're running late, but about to get started. I just chatted with Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes and Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons. Just as friendly as you'd want them to be.
7:20 p.m.: OK, my stage introductions are over! And the best part was just hanging with Pete from Naked Eyes for the 5 minutes before going out. Fulfilling his promise, he sang "Rocket Man" to me right before I walked out with the microphone. And as has become tradition, I introduced them by saying, "Please welcome, my good friends ... Naked Eyes!"
I doubt I'll get this silly grin off my face any year soon. For the record, tonight Naked Eyes is opening with a killer version of "Voices in My Head."
7:35 p.m.: People are really enjoying Naked Eyes, so I slipped away backstage again. Martin Fry of ABC just arrived and is saying hello to the Seagulls, who are drinking beers and getting ready to go on next.
8:10 p.m.: Pete just popped by and gave me a copy of his single "Movies I Dream" from the "Piccadilly" album, which is due out in 2009. He peeled off the plastic wrapped and signed it -- "Steve, All the best! Pete Byne." Again, can the night get any better?
Dale from Missing Persons joined us for a quick chat. She told Pete she was always a big fan of his songs and so we all just enjoyed the moment. Dale has a crazed energy tonight -- she looks more eager for the show than I am, which is damn near impossible. A Flock of Seagulls is still on stage, playing "Wishing," a song that never got its proper due, I say.
8:20 p.m.: Seagulls is finishing their set with "I Ran." The crowd is really going nuts. Damn straight. This is '80s Night in Clearwater, and there's no going back to today's dull, monotonous music after hearing these bands play live.
8:40 p.m.: Dale Bozzio and Missing Persons got a huge reaction when they appeared on stage moments ago. Dale is constantly pouring champagne into a glass, which she is sipping between songs. (That's the secret to her ability to hit the high notes, I'm deducting.) She opened up with "Destination Unknown" and the crowd jumped to their feet for the whole song. She's still able to hit that "hiccup" note too.
And to answer the big question: No, she's not wearing the metal bikini that she made famous 25 years ago in all those killer MTV videos. She has on bell-bottom jeans, a big black jacket and a fedora.
9 p.m.: The meet-and-greet is on. About 10 of us are waiting for Martin Fry from ABC. Suddenly there he is, just as cool and unassuming as he was during my podcast interview with him. He introduces himself to everyone and poses for whatever photos we want. He remembers me from our podcast interview, and we have a short talk about that interview and the Las Vegas show. Martin says he has a couple new songs to play tonight that we didn't hear in Vegas.
And then I confess that I think ABC blew Human League away during the Vegas show. He gives me a nice grin, and says "Yeah, yeah? Ah, cheers mate! We sorta thought so too."
Just as Martin is finishing up, Mike Score from Seagulls comes in, and we get a chance for a photo with him. My friend John (who took the photo of Dale above) and I have a quick chat with Mike, asking him about "Space Age Love Song," which Mike confesses is his favorite song too. "The keyboard player from ABC asked how I came up with that song," Mike says. "I told him, I just put my hands on the keyboard and went da-dum, and there it was."
9:25 pm: Intermission time again. The Romantics guitarist just walked by my door, strumming along. No red leather suits tonight.
10:20 pm: You wouldn't believe me if I told you what I've been doing the last hour. Really. Let's just say rock n' roll is still alive, and Dale Bozzio is the current reigning queen of that movement. After her set, Dale signed autographs from the stage, from off the stage, outside in the lobby and then right back the backstage door literally for an hour. Maybe two. I've lost time.
"I'm NOT going to not sign autographs!" she tells the security around her. Once people realize she's there and being so accommodating, she's mobbed non-stop with people wanted ticket stubs signed, requesting hugs, photos, everything.
She ended up in the Green Room with a few hardcore fans and held court for all of us, spinning stories you would simply just insist I'm making up. I think she's still in there. I gave her a good hug a couple of times, just because that's what you do in moments like that.
I've missed the entire Romantics set, but I'm ok with it. I have a photo of Dale hugging me, and a special souvenir for uber-fan Johnny B. Goode. (This will make us even for the Eli Manning autography, buddy.)
10:30 p.m.: Martin Fry is outside my room now, dressed in black. Members of Missing Persons are hanging out with him, shooting the breeze. The Romantics are presumably finishing up their set with "What I Like About You." And yes, I've been told Dale's still in the Green Room, telling more incredible stories and sipping champagne.
Final line by the Romantics: "What's what we like about Clearwater, Florida!"
11 p.m.: Here comes ABC. The first song -- "The Very First Time."
11:40 p.m.: No gold suit, but does that really matter? It's ABC. It's Martin Fry. They ran through a quick set of about six songs. Sadly, no "All of My Heart." But they did a particularly soulful version of "Be Near Me," which was just as endearing. And they had everyone on their feet for "Poison Arrow," "How to be a Millionaire," "When Smokey Sings," and the finale -- "The Look of Love."
Has it really been 25 long years since those songs were top of the chart? Tonight, nobody could remember. And nobody really cared.
I'll post photos of my encounters with Martin, Dale and Mike Score sometime soon, when the buzz from tonight's show wears off. In the meantime, special thanks to all my new friends who showed up tonight wearing "Stuck in the 80s" t-shirts. That meant a lot to me. A very special high-five to Jason Matteucci at Ruth Eckerd for sharing his photos with me. And as usual, never-ending thanks to the entire staff at Ruth Eckerd, who are like family to me on nights like this.
I hope everything was good in the world tonight!
[Photos by Jayson Matteucci of Ruth Eckerd Hall]