Live Review: Heaven 17 @ The Birchmere — 9/25/22

Glenn Gregory fronts Heaven 17 at The Birchmere on Sept. 25, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Finally, on a full tour of the United States, Heaven 17 recently engaged a DC-area audience at The Birchmere with stories and song, providing a fascinating look at the history of the band.

The synthpop collective’s core duo of Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware have known each other since they were teens in Sheffield, England, so they arrive to the United States more than 45 years into their association full of fond tales and bright tunes.

Glen recalled, for example, how Martyn might dress in a bright green jacket, tight white pants, and platform shoes before going out for clubbing with him in the ‘70s.

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Live Review: New Order and Pet Shop Boys @ Merriweather Post Pavilion — 9/21/22

Pet Shop Boys at Merriweather Post Pavillion
Neil Tennant fronts Pet Shop Boys at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 21, 2022. (Photos by Kyle Gustafson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

New Order and the Pet Shop Boys, two revered English synthpop bands, joined forces for an irresistible double bill, hailed The Unity Tour, which surfaced at Merriweather Post Pavilion outside DC not long ago.

The highly anticipated tour was twice postponed due to complications of touring during the high prevalence of COVID-19 over the past two years. With the rescheduled date landing in the midst of a high season of very good concerts, I wondered if the final show would stand out from the crowd as well.

I need not have wondered. The New Order Mancs showed so much heart and grit and the PSB Londoners brought plenty of brains and style — and the combined power of their twin performances undoubtedly produced the very best concert of the year.

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Live Review: Echo & the Bunnymen @ Lincoln Theatre — 9/17/22

Echo & the Bunnymen perform at the Lincoln Theatre on Sept. 17, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Echo & the Bunnymen were inevitable.

By the late ’70s, electronic instruments had become more widely available, fueling a rise of experimentation in UK cities like London, Manchester, and Liverpool. Inspired by the DIY ethos of the Sex Pistols, many bands picked up these instruments and started creating.

But in Liverpool, Ian McCuloch and Will Sergeant were admirers of The Velvet Underground and the Doors, two psychedelic bands fronted by Americans. Once those bands had recorded, Echo & the Bunnymen were going to happen regardless of flashy keyboards or electronic drum machines. Their American musical roots perhaps explain why the duo still today gets the earnest rock star treatment from packed houses and eager audiences.

Ian, Will, and their touring bandmates once again received a recent hero’s welcome in DC in a sold-out performance at the Lincoln Theatre.

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Live Review: Culture Club w/ The English Beat @ Wolf Trap — 9/1/22

Roy Hay (left) and Boy George (right) strum up some fantastic Culture Club tunes at Wolf Trap on Sept. 1, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Words by Mickey McCarter)

Dave Wakeling wrapped a performance of “Tenderness,” originally recorded for his former band General Public, and he paused a beat before addressing the audience on a recent warm evening at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.

“Very political times, the 1980s,” Dave said. “Politics showed up in a fair bit of music. It seems like The Beat and UB40 were going on about it all the time! But interestingly, 40-odd years later, George affected more social change than any of us — not by singing about politics but just by being George.”

“That’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to be on these shows right now,” Dave added.

The George in question, of course, was none other than George Alan O’Dowd, better known as Boy George, and the shows in question were The English Beat’s opening run for Culture Club for a few dates last week. And Dave Wakeling was right. But just as critically, Culture Club and The English Beat, two pop music giants of the ’80s, made for a very grand night of music.

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