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Let’s Rock Festival – The Mystery, Liverpool – A Review

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By Linze Watson

The 80s revival was well underway in full florescent style at the weekend’s hottest Northwest summer festival – Let’s Rock Liverpool. The family friendly festival hosting an array of iconic music artists, who once reigned supreme and dominated the 80s charts, enthralled the 40,000 strong crowds at Wavertree Playing fields aka The Mystery.

Following a well organised entry procedure and security check, the line-up commenced at 12 noon with DJ, TV and radio presenters Pat Sharpe and Dave Benson entertaining the crowds with tales of artists escapades and funny anecdotes whilst festival goers found their desired spot; put out their camping chairs and cracked open their picnics ready for the one day event.

Pig Bag kicked off proceedings with the sound of their heady saxophones and trumpets before finishing their four strong set with a mash-up of Aha’s hit Take On Me and Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

Bad Manners were truly magnificent, a jewel in the 80s Ska crown with many festival goers saying ‘they
should have been further up the bill’ as they had the crowd on their feet and bouncing ‘mosh pit style’ to My Girl Lollipop, Lorraine, Wooly Bully (written and originally performed by Domingo Samudio, better known as Sam, The Sham in 1937), Special Brew, and their 1980 hit Lip Up Fatty, which surprisingly only reached No15 in the UK Singles Chart.

Next came a sedate set from Scritti Politti, crooning their hits Sweetest Girl, Perfect Way and Words Beez
amongst others from their back catalogue.

Set changes were slick with an average gap of twenty minutes, giving enough time to visit the bars, look
around the various merchandise stalls or decide what to order at one of the reasonably priced (for a festival) food outlets. The largest queue seemed to be for the glitter stall, which transformed faces, beards, and hair for a full-on festival vibe. Neon bucket hats and sunglasses were interspersed with umbrellas and rainmacs however that didn’t dampen the atmosphere.

The music continued with the introduction of the Let’s Rock house band, The Desperadoes who played a variety of instruments and provided backing vocals for Ten Pole Tudor, Sydney Youngblood, Urban Cookie Collective and Sonique who performed all their hits.

Chesney Hawkes, fresh off the aeroplane from California, where he has lived for the past two decades, plucked and strummed his guitar with gusto until he roused the crowd further with his 1991 hit, I Am The One And Only. Hawkes could be forgiven for gate-crashing an 80s festival as he technically started his career in the late 80s, before being catapulted to fame in March 1991 having spent a coveted five weeks at the number one spot. Johnny Hates Jazz appeared delighted to entertain the crowd and constantly
thanked the crowd for turning up and enthusiastically cheering throughout their set despite a heavy deluge of rain.

The sun came out for the talented Belinda Carlise who at 63, doesn’t seem to have aged either vocally or physically and could easily pass for a woman half her age. The crowd sang along to hit after hit from her back catalogue of: Heaven Is A Place On Earth; I Get Weak; Band Of Gold; Circle In The Sand; We Got the Beat and finally, Leave a Light On. Belinda left the light glowing brightly as dance act Ottowan took to the stage to perform their tracks D.I.S.C.O and Hands Up before they headed off into the VIP tent to perform more of their hits.

The Farm received rapturous applause with their hits and voicing of their political persuasions, which led neatly into their iconic hit All Together Now. They extended the track as the crowd chanted back the lyrics to a sound that has been picked and used by the BBC when covering the Olympic Games and more recently, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and Commonwealth Games coverage.

Nick Heyward’s Love Plus One, and Fantastic Day (another BBC reporting coverage track) and Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins ensured the party atmosphere continued before the three headliners took to the stage. Level 42 (an English jazz-funk band from Isle of Wight) with their distinguishable guitar chords and Mark King’s distinctive voice, continued to transport the crowd into 80s nostalgic heaven with an eight-track set including: Running In The Family, Something About You and their 1986 No3 hit, Lessons In Love.

The dress code ranged from casual jeans and T-shirts, to the gorgeously glamourous, however praise needs to heaped on the many who turned up in full 80s costumes – representing a myriad of iconic popular and now, not so popular, celebrities form the era. Crowds rubbed shoulders with: Boy George, George Michael, Prince, Wonder Woman, Mr T, Scobby, Scrappy and Thelma, Madonna, Toyah and Adam Ant.

Film, TV and sporting icons were not left out either, as a large party dressed as yellow coats from Hi De Hi, a Dusty Bin and Ted Rogers, mingled with Top Gun officers and flying suits were sported alongside An Officer and a Gentleman. A large family from Leeds each decided to dress as famous tennis and motor racing stars.

Billy Ocean, a seasoned professional and 80s icon drew even more crowds nearer to the stage as he and his orchestra – yes, a full orchestra at a festival- performed hit after hit (Love Really Hurts Without You; Get Into My Car; Red Light Spells Danger; No Woman No Cry; Suddenly) before the clear crowd pleaser of When the Going Gets Tough bringing the baying crowd to a musical crescendo with and extended version of Caribbean Queen.

Photo Credits: Let’s Rock

The headliners The Human League, thoroughly deserving of their accolade of ‘a true musical representation of 80s’ were cataclysmic and did not disappoint. The moody poses of Phil Oakey and synchronised dance moves of Joanne (brunette) and Sandra (blonde, who succeeded Susann from the original line-up) transported festival goers back to the glam-rock inspired period of the androgynous look of: shoulder pads, a lobsided flicked geometric hairstyle, pale faces with bright red lipstick. Their impressive back catalogue containing notable hits from their thirteen tops 20 singles and six top 20 albums, which sold over twenty million records worldwide, provided the pinnacle of 80s entertainment. Hits such as: Hearts Like A Wheel; Open Your Eyes; Lebannon; The Voice of Budda; Love Action; Tell Me When; Fascination; and Don’t You Want Me Baby? left festival goers reliving and rejoicing in an 80s retro revival.

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