Berlin and The Romantics at the Hard Rock Rocksino
January 21st, 2018
"Legacy Acts," the so-called holdover bands from the last century, have become extremely popular with the younger generation and, of course, we silver-haired fans who have followed these outfits since their halcyon days a few decades ago.
Not to impugn the flavors-of-the-month musicians that the new millennium has produced, but many off these bands have been around since the Viet Nam War, and they continue to tour regularly. Nostalgia is a large factor in purchasing concert tickets these days and what better way to spend a Winter evening (and a few bucks) than at a concert that rekindles your love of the Reagan years?
I have fond memories of the two bands that hit the Hard Rock Live venue Friday night; each band reminds me of a girl I used to date and haven't seen since the end of that seemingly lost decade. Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," while the theme from the hit 1986 film Top Gun, takes me somewhere else completely: to a beach with a beautiful blonde and her bucolic laugh. That summer, filled with FM radio overdosing on the catchy, almost-perfect pop tune, was the summer of Jane and all of her trappings.
The Romantics and their effervescent New Wave ditty "What I Like About You," takes me back to my senior year of high school. And, of course, what would that have been without Debbie? Her crooked smile and that tune encapsulate a good part of what I remember about my last year of matriculation in Cleveland's western suburbs.
As each band took the stage for their one-off performance (this stop wasn't part of a tour) I couldn't help but be enveloped in the nostalgia of that oh-so-wonderful decade. Who would have thought, thirty-odd years ago, that those two loves of my life would be distant blips...barely recognizable on my emotional radar save for a few tunes that brought their memory rushing back into the forefront of my screaming id?
Funny how nostalgia works.
Anyway, Detroit-bred The Romantics took the stage for a brisk forty-five minute set. Led by frontman Wally Palmar, the band still hosts three of the four original members. Palmar, on lead vocals, Mike Skill on lead guitar and Rich Cole, the bassist who left the band in 1982 but rejoined a few years ago, looked pretty good for aging midwestern rockers. The outfit's original drummer, Jimmy Marinos, sang the lead on "What I Like About You" on the album but left at the peak of the band's popularity and is now rumored to be working as a chef in Iowa.
Plugging through their set, the band offered a plethora of early '80s tunes that exemplified the New Wave sound that was just starting to crescendo as the band was becoming popular. "When I Look In Your Eyes," from 1980's The Romantics was an early set offering. "A Night Like This," pulled off of 1981's National Breakout came next.
By the time the band got to "Talking In Your Sleep," the crowd was on its feet. As Skill, Ramones-styled moptop in place, kept it going with his six-string, they finished with their most well-known hit, 1980's "What I Like About You."
After a short stage re-set, Berlin came out. Terri Nunn, lead singer and an original member of the band, was sporting a black outfit and a million-watt smile.
Nunn, the only member of Berlin to still tour as a part of the band (which is labeled "Terri Nunn and Berlin") said she only really feels at home in two places throughout the United States: Ohio, because her mother is from the Buckeye State, and Washington state, as that's from where her father hails. A cheer rang from the crowd when she announced that original members John Crawford and Dave Diamond are entering the studio with Nunn next month to finish recording a new album.
The set started off strong with one of Berlin's biggest hits. They broke into "No More Words" and the crowd ate it up. Following with 1981's "The Metro," Nunn took no breather as she lit into "Masquerade." Stopping to thank the audience, the band members left the stage while she introduced a quick video. Apparently, the band never would have existed with her as the lead vocalist if her audition for Star Wars, which she played for us, had been a success. A very young Nunn, seated next to Harrison Ford, riffed on blowing up the Death Star and the importance of the plans stowed away in that little Artoo unit. She said Ford didn't like her for some reason and that Star Wars may have changed her life in ways that Berlin wouldn't; no regrets, right? It was an interesting video...talk about ramping up the already-huge nostalgia factor.
As the trio of musicians (Dave Schulz on keys, Chris Olivas on drums, and Carlton Bost on guitar) returned to the stage, the outfit played several covers, most notably and perhaps a little out of place, Prince's "Erotic City."
Debuting a song from her new album, she rode on the shoulders of a roadie throughout the audience as she belted out "All For Love." Pacing between sections one and two while high-fiving and clasping audience members' hands, her delivery of the new tune has a classic Berlin vibe to it.
Inviting a handful of pre-selected audience members onto the stage for "Dancing In Berlin," Nunn flitted throughout the smiling backup dancers. I recognized a few of my high school friends up there, completing the nostalgia binge in which I was now totally enveloped. Of course, I haven't seen them since the mid-1980s and the bald domes and the beer paunches quickly crashed that wave.
By this time, everyone was anxiously awaiting the chart-topping smash "Take My Breath Away." When the familiar opening played (and is there a better opening stanza in any '80s pop song?), the crowd went apeshit. I immediately went into nostalgia overdrive again, erasing the visuals of my Elyria-High-Class-of-1984-classmates-gettin'-jiggy-with-Terri session.
Hearing that tune, as well as Wally busting out "What I Like About You," is a good part of what this particular brand of concert-going experience is all about. If you can shake out the cobwebs, put on the parachute pants if you desire, and revel in the music that made you who you are today, then embrace it for all it's worth.
And, of course, I smiled the whole way home, wondering how Jane's doing today. I stopped for a moment, lost in thought; is it possible that she thinks of me whenever she hears that song?
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley