Music Park: Men Without Hats @ World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, Pa. — 6/15/15

Men Without Hats @ YDS (NXNE 2011)-13.jpg
Ivan Doroschuk leads Men Without Hats during a performance at NXNE 2011.

The audience got the message and the message was clear in Philadelphia on Monday, June 15: Men Without Hats are still great.

Vocalist Ivan Doroschuk was in fighting trim at the World Cafe Live as he paraded through his band’s greatest hits as well as selections off a 2012 album, Love in the Age of War, recorded with his relatively new bandmates.

Knowing that the crowd would enjoy a good thing when it heard it, Ivan opened this show with a stripped down, ballad version of “Safety Dance,” which brought surprising poignancy to the old favorite.

Watch a fan video of the acoustic performance of “Safety Dance” by Ivan at World Café Live on June 15 (You can see my friend and date Jessica taking a few pix at the front of the stage as Ivan performs):

Although Ivan is pretty still for his acoustic performance, he breaks out some of his signature dance moves for classics like “Antarctica,” Ivan’s allegory of perhaps being “frozen out” of a scene.

Together, Ivan and the band bring the same sense of urgency running through the Men Without Hats catalog to other well-regarded releases like “I Got the Message,” which was a single from the terrific 1982 debut album from Men Without Hats, Rhythm of Youth, a record that also featured “Safety Dance” and “Antarctica.”

As usual, the new Men Without Hats (actually formed around 2010) sounded great with stalwarts James Love on guitar and duo synthesizers played by Lou Dawson and Rachel Ashmore.

They rose to the occasion for a favorite cover — that of “S.O.S.” by ABBA, as first heard on the album The Adventures of Women & Men Without Hate in the 21st Century, the follow-up to “Pop Goes the World.” Ivan put his love of the song into a jogging dance routine that captured his indomitable energy.

The new songs from Love in the Age of War also sound good, and they fit right alongside the legacy singles. Consider “This War,” a song whose lyrics may remind us that “love is a battlefield” with a wonderfully driving electronic sound that could have sprung right from a basement club in 1979.

They performed last night in Somerville, Mass., but they still have a few dates left on the current leg of their summer tour. Catch them at Revolution Bar and Music Hall in Amityville, N.Y., with openers China Crisis (who are in great form with a new album) on Friday, June 19, or at Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan on Saturday, June 20.

Men Without Hats drew a fair crowd in Philadelphia, where the dinner tables were full and a handful of people danced spiritedly in front of the stage at the first-rate World Café Live. You should join those kindred spirits at your earliest possible opportunity.

As Ivan sings:

We can dance if we want to/
We’ve got all your life and mine/
As long as we abuse it, never gonna lose it/
Everything’ll work out right.

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