1989-09-24 | Love And Rockets

1989-09-24 Love And Rockets

Date: 24 September 1989
Artist: Love And Rockets
Support Act: Pixies
Venue: Recreation Hall
Location: University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $14.00

Love And Rockets managed a minor miracle when their single “So Alive” reached 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1989. This achievement coincided with the second leg of a North American tour in support of their eponymous fourth LP. The band partnered with Pixies for this road trip, which wisely included stops at several universities, given both bands’ appeal with college students.

Not long after returning to Penn State in August to start my junior year, I discovered that the Love And Rockets tour schedule included a September date at Recreational Hall, a multi-purpose sports facility on PSU’s main campus. After missing The Cure’s show in Philadelphia at the end of August (see prior post), I hoped an evening with Love And Rockets might provide some consolation. I invited my girlfriend, even though she was not familiar with either band. Over the summer, I had made her a mix tape of my favorite artists in an effort to expand her musical horizons (Love And Rockets was represented by “Love Me” from “Express”); alas, we would not find common ground there. However, a club DJ who lived across the hall from me in the Lyons Hall dormitory expressed interest in attending, so I purchased three tickets.

The 6,000+ capacity Rec Hall seemed pretty packed on the night of the show. Our seats were situated toward the rear of the floor section, a good distance from the stage. I never could get into the Pixies, and consequently did not appreciate their opening set. The Boston-based band had expanded their fan base in 1989 with the release of sophomore album “Doolittle”, and related singles “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man,” all of which were promoted via a new US distribution deal with Elektra Records.

The Pixies were loud, and Love And Rockets didn’t lower the volume knob. The trio’s heavily amplified, guitar-driven performance touched on all facets of their varied repertoire: rock, pop, post-punk, psychedelic, glam, goth, and blues. Selections from all four of the band’s albums featured in the set, which finished with two encores: a raucous cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, followed by a campy reading of “Wake Up” featuring Daniel Ash in drag.

Further Reading: Gregory Roth, Love And Rockets And The Pixies Will Rock Rec Hall SundayThe Daily Collegian, 22 September 1989.

Gregory Roth, Rockets, Pixies Rattle Rec HallThe Daily Collegian, 26 September 1989.


1989-08-23 | The Cure

1989-08-23 The Cure (1)

1989-08-23 The Cure (2)

Date: 23 August 1989
Artist: The Cure
Support Act: Shelleyan Orphan
Venue: The Spectrum
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $18.50

Few will argue that The Cure’s 1989 album “Disintegration” is the pinnacle of the band’s career. Likewise, The Prayer Tour, which accompanied that album, has also been hailed as one of the group’s best live road trips. The tour schedule brought the band to Philadelphia on 23 August 1989, and I was very excited to see The Cure again. I purchased tickets as soon as I could and secured seats in the second level of The Spectrum.

The weekend prior to the concert, I had moved back to Penn State’s main campus at University Park for my junior year. Classes started that week, so getting back to Philadelphia (200 miles away) for a Wednesday night show wasn’t going to be easy or convenient—a factor I had not taken into consideration when acquiring tickets. My girlfriend at that time, Carrie, had a car and initially agreed to drive us to Philly for the show, after which we’d stay over at my house, then drive back to Penn State early the next morning. However, that meant we would have to miss a few classes, which honor student Carrie wasn’t particularly keen on.

As we drove off campus toward the highway home, Carrie repeatedly expressed her concerns about missing class, and complained about how this trip wasn’t a good idea. After about 15 minutes, I caved in and told her to turn around. I decided that our relationship and her happiness were more important than seeing The Cure. However, missing that concert ranks high on my list of lifelong regrets.

Just to torture myself, I looked up the setlist for that Philly show—it’s pretty much perfect:

01 Plainsong
02 Pictures Of You
03 Closedown
04 Piggy In The Mirror
05 A Night Like This
06 Just Like Heaven
07 Last Dance
08 Fascination Street
09 Lovesong
10 Charlotte Sometimes
11 The Walk
12 A Forest
13 In Between Days
14 The Same Deep Water As You
15 Prayers For Rain
16 Disintegration
     Encore 1
17 Lullaby
18 Close To Me
19 Let’s Go To Bed
20 Why Can’t I Be You?
     Encore 2
21 Homesick
22 Untitled
23 A Strange Day
24 Hot Hot Hot!!!
25 Three Imaginary Boys
26 Boys Don’t Cry
27 10:15 Saturday Night
28 Killing An Arab

Any of my friends who went to the concert described it as one of the best live shows ever.

Carrie and I weren’t together much longer after that.

1989-07-14 | New Order

1989-07-14 New Order

Date: 14 July 1989
Artist: New Order
Support Acts: Public Image Limited, The Sugarcubes
Venue: Mann Music Center
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $13.50

Billed as ‘The Monsters of Alternative Rock’, New Order, Public Image Limited, and The Sugarcubes toured together in June and July of 1989—it was the summer concert event for US college students. This show would be my first time experiencing all three of these bands live. Two years earlier, I had missed a similar tour featuring Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, and Gene Loves Jezebel. And in 1988, I had hoped to see PiL open for INXS; however, things didn’t quite work out on the night of that show.

Friday July 14 was a perfect summer night for an outdoor concert at the Mann Music Center in West Philadelphia. I attended the show with my buddies Bill, Brian, and Todd—we acquired general admission tickets, with which we could view the performances from unassigned bleacher seats or a large lawn area in the rear of the venue. With so many fellow students and friends also present, it was as much a social outing as a musical event.

I never did care for The Sugarcubes, so I chatted with various folks during the opening set by Björk and company. However, I was eager to see Public Image Limited, so my crew got as close as possible within the bleacher area. PiL were on the road to promote their recently released album “9”, which was the band’s most commercial effort to date; it’s a bit crap, in my opinion, although the singles “Disappointed” and “Warrior” are passable. But that didn’t matter, because John Lydon’s magnetic stage presence easily compensated for any weak tunes.

“Warrior” proved to be an effective opener, followed by “Happy”, and then the band dipped into older material starting with “This Is Not A Love Song.” During “The Body”, Lydon had the audience chanting the song’s repeated refrain of “We want your body!” But his most memorable moment came late in the set, as Lydon announced, “It’s sing-along with Johnny time,” and then launched into a powerful rendition of “Rise.”

01 Warrior
02 Happy
03 This Is Not a Love Song
04 Home
05 Round
06 Brave New World
07 Same Old Story
08 The Body
09 Open And Revolving
10 Rise
11 Disappointed
12 Public Image

John Lydon has always been a hard act to follow; unfortunately, New Order were clearly not up to the task that evening. With little audience interaction and minimal enthusiasm, New Order’s performance was a surprising letdown. Touring in support of “Technique”, the band’s setlist heavily favored that album, rounded out by big singles.

01 Touched By The Hand of God
02 Dream Attack
03 Ceremony
04 All The Way
05 Round & Round
06 Mr. Disco
07 Every Little Counts
08 True Faith
09 Vanishing Point
10 Temptation
11 Bizarre Love Triangle
12 The Perfect Kiss
13 Blue Monday
14 Fine Time

New Order may have been the headliners, but PiL stole the spotlight that night.

1989-06-20 | Xymox

1989-06-20 Xymox

Date: 20 June 1989
Artist: Xymox
Support Act: Moev
Venue: Theater Of Living Arts
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $15.50

Dutch dark wave pioneers Xymox started making music in 1983. After the release of an EP that year, founding members Ronny Moorings and Anka Wolbert were joined by Pieter Nooten, establishing what would be the core band during the 1980s. The group changed its name to Clan Of Xymox upon joining the artist stable of 4AD Records in 1985, but then reverted back to Xymox in 1987, prior to their departure from the label. Seeking a wider audience, Xymox signed with PolyGram subsidiary Wing Records and released their third LP, “Twist Of Shadows”, in 1989.

Thanks to Wing’s promotional efforts, Xymox benefited from mainstream exposure in 1989, with videos for “Obsession” and “Imagination” appearing on MTV, and the latter charting on the Billboard Hot 100. “Twist Of Shadows” shifted 300,000 units in the US and cracked the Billboard 200. I had grown fond of the group over the past two years, and immediately appreciated the new album. Compared to the band’s first two LPs, “Twist Of Shadows” has a brighter sound, thanks to Peter Walsh’s production; however, Xymox certainly could not be characterized as having sold out.

Xymox toured the US in support of “Twist Of Shadows”, making a stop in Philadelphia on 20 June 1989 to perform at the TLA on South Street. While enthusiastic about seeing Xymox live, I was equally interested in the support act, Moev. In 1984, the Vancouver band’s need for a record label led to the founding of Nettwerk, an imprint which I’ve always likened to being Canada’s 4AD. Subsequent to signing a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, Moev was on the road to promote the belated US release of “Yeah Whatever.”

I went to this show alone, and sat in the center of the theater. Arriving early, I wound up chatting with the guy seated to my left—a musician who attended random shows looking for varied inspirations. He was a nice enough fellow, but admittedly unfamiliar with both bands.

I wish that I could remember something from either or both performances, but no distinctive details come to mind. As best as I can recall, both Moev and Xymox were in fine form that evening. And with three great albums from which to draw, Xymox had no problem assembling a solid setlist.

01 Clementina
02 Obsession
03 A Million Things
04 Michelle
05 Evelyn
06 Back Door
07 Cry In The Wind
08 Muscoviet Mosquito
09 Imagination
10 Blind Hearts
11 Louise
12 Craving
13 Stranger
14 7th Time
15 Tonight
16 A Day

1989-04-23 | The Hooters

Date: 23 April 1989
Event: Sy Barash Regatta
Artists: The Hooters, Tommy Conwell And The Young Rumblers
Venue: Bald Eagle State Park
Location: Howard, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $5.00

Held every spring for 20 years between 1975 and 1995, the Sy Barash Regatta was an annual fundraising event that benefited the American Cancer Society. Created and organized by the Pennsylvania State University’s Beta Sigma Beta fraternity, the Regatta honored the memory of local businessman and fraternity brother Sy Barash, who succumbed to cancer in 1974. While called a regatta, the event’s only competitive boating came in the form of casual canoe races; that early tradition became less prominent over the years as the focus shifted to music. At its height, the Sy Barash Regatta attracted over 25,000 attendees to Bald Eagle State Park for leisurely sunbathing, fun activities, sporting contests, and live entertainment. As per the event’s signature catchphrase, “ya gotta regatta!”

The 15th annual Sy Barash Regatta featured two Philadelphia-based acts that both made good on a national level: The Hooters, who previously performed at the event in 1984, and Tommy Conwell And The Young Rumblers, who also played at the Regatta before in 1986. The Release and Split Decision, local bands from the State College area, rounded out the bill.

Along with my college roommates Howard and Bryan, I traveled to the event site via one of the many shuttle buses operating between the Penn State campus and Bald Eagle State Park, situated approximately 22 miles away. I think we arrived sometime between noon and 1:00 PM, as I don’t recall seeing either of the two local acts. And honestly, I barely remember Tommy Conwell and The Hooters being there—it’s like they were background noise. Very few people seemed to be paying attention to the bands that day, and were instead engrossed in conversations and activities.

After the event ended at 5:00 PM, we boarded the bus back to campus. Not sure how or why it started, but Howard and I led a sing-along of the theme to “The Flintstones.” That I remember, but unfortunately not one song from The Hooters’ set comes to mind.

Further Reading: Beth Higbee, Preparation Is Key For Annual EventThe Daily Collegian, 21 April 1989.

Christine Campbell, Beta Sigma Beta Defends New Regatta RulesThe Daily Collegian, 21 April 1989.

Christine Campbell, Fun In The Sun, The Daily Collegian, 24 April 1989.

Laura Pace, Hooters Jam For Large, But Apathetic Regatta Crowd, The Daily Collegian, 25 April 1989.

1988-11-18 | A Flock Of Seagulls

1988-11-18 A Flock Of Seagulls

Date: 18 November 1988
Artist: A Flock Of Seagulls
Venue: Theater Of Living Arts
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $15.50

In the annals of music history, A Flock Of Seagulls will probably always be unfairly characterized as new wave one-hit wonders with weird hairdos. However, the original lineup of Mike Score (vocals and keyboards), his brother Ali Score (drums), Frank Maudsley (bass), and Paul Reynolds (guitar) produced innovative and memorable tunes, enjoyed several hit singles, and even won a Grammy Award. Unfortunately, the band peaked early, couldn’t maintain momentum, and splintered after three albums.

I was fascinated to recently discover that the brothers Score and Frank Maudsley moved to my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1985, after guitarist Paul Reynolds left the band (in my opinion, Reynolds is a vastly underrated guitarist and was the most talented member of the band). The trio, augmented by additional musicians, released the fourth AFOS LP, “Dream Come True”, in 1986. Dramatically different in style than the band’s prior releases, the new album tanked, so Maudsley went home to the UK, and Ali Score relocated to New England. His erstwhile bandmates having moved on, Mike Score took an extended break and learned how to build boats.

In 1988, Score assembled a new Flock comprised of fellow UK expats and local talent from the Philly area (again, it’s bizarre that Mike Score lived five miles away from me at this time and I never knew it). That year, the new unit went on tour to test the waters, as well as debut new material that Score had written. When a date was booked at the then-new Theater Of Living Arts, I promptly got to the box office.

My buddies (and soon-to-be college roommates) Bryan and Howard expressed interest in going to the concert, so I purchased three tickets; however, on the day of the show, those bastards bailed on me (fortunately, they did reimburse me for their tickets). Desperate for a last-minute date, I called my friend Julie, who was available and interested enough in the band to tag along.

With a maximum capacity of 1,000 attendees, the Theater Of Living Arts (TLA) is situated on South Street, a hip avenue renowned for eclectic shops, distinct eateries, and colorful watering holes. The site of the TLA originated as a nickelodeon in 1908, and has since been renovated numerous times to serve as a concert hall, repertory theatre, beatnik hangout, and multiple movie house incarnations; it was converted to a live concert facility in 1988.

Our seats for the show were very good—left of center orchestra section, eight rows from the stage. The audience seemed genuinely enthusiastic when AFOS came out. No longer sporting his trademark ‘seagull’ hairstyle, Score managed the remains of his follicles in a ponytail under a baseball cap. Also gone were the futuristic threads worn earlier in the decade; Score now opted for a casual button-down shirt and torn, baggy jeans. The new band sounded decent enough, and played a mixture of old hits and new songs, some of which would eventually be recorded for 1995 album, “The Light At The End Of The World.” At the end of the group’s main set, Score announced, “You’ll recognize this one—’I Ran’,” with a subtle eye roll and finger points that almost suggested embarrassment from playing his biggest US Billboard chart bit.

I found the setlist below on the excellent resource, setlist.fm. It’s from a gig played earlier that week, on November 13 in New Orleans—seems a little short in duration, but it’s likely very similar to the Philly show.

Setlist (unconfirmed):
01 Space Age Love Song
02 Setting Sun
03 European (I Wish I Was)
04 Magic
05 The More You Live, The More You Love
06 Miracle
07 Bridge To Your Heart
08 Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)
09 Burnin’ Up
10 Nightmares
11 Yesterday’s Dream
12 I Ran
13 Better And Better
14 Telecommunication

In a bold move, Mike Score invited audience members to join the band onstage during their final song. Dozens of fans flocked to the front, jumped onto the stage, and danced away to an extended jam of “Telecommunication.” One guy even sang into the main microphone. Julie prodded me to join the onstage party, but I exercised restraint and enjoyed the spectacle from our seats. I don’t know if Score prompted that stunt at every show, or if he was just cultivating his new hometown crowd, but I’ve not seen anything like it since.

Further Reading: Jonathan Takiff, Local Seagulls Join The FlockPhiladelphia Daily News, 18 November 1988.

1988-09-07 | Peter Murphy

1988-09-07 The Church

Date: 07 September 1988
Artist: The Church
Support Acts: Peter Murphy, Tom Verlaine
Venue: Tower Theater
Location: Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, USA
Ticket Price (USD): $14.50

Australian alternative rockers The Church toured the US extensively in 1988 to promote their fifth album, “Starfish.” For 25 dates in August and September, the band was accompanied by Peter Murphy, who received co-billing at these shows, promoted as ‘An Evening with The Church and Peter Murphy.’ Also on the bill was Tom Verlaine, who supported The Church during this second leg of their 1988 North American tour.

Although The Church were the headliners, my interest in this concert stemmed from Peter Murphy’s presence. My friend Julie, a huge follower of Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, Love And Rockets, etc., attended the show with me, along with her pal Jen and my buddy Bryan.

Built in 1927, Upper Darby’s legendary Tower Theater began its operations as a movie house. After a fire ravaged the building in the early-1970s, the Tower was refurbished and transformed into a live concert venue. The 3,000-person capacity auditorium has hosted an eclectic array of artists over the past 40+ years, and has served as the recording location for several live albums—most famously, Bowie’s “David Live” from 1974.

Our seats were situated off the aisle in the middle of the center orchestra area, affording us a decent view of the stage. We arrived early, and Bryan and I took advantage of closer, unoccupied seats to view Tom Verlaine’s acoustic opening set. Back then, I had no clue who Verlaine was, and had never heard of Television. I’m embarrassed to admit that Bryan and I quietly mocked Verlaine while he was performing, which annoyed the two guys in front of us, who were clearly fans (to them, I now offer a much-belated apology for our behavior).

Not long after Verlaine finished, Peter Murphy and his band took to the stage. Going back to his Bauhaus days, Murphy has a flair for the dramatic, and plays up his gothic sex symbol status to the hilt. His self-indulgent tendencies led to endless repetition of the final line from “Socrates The Python”—Murphy chanted “Bennett, Gurdjieff, Jesus” long enough for it to become uncomfortable. During “Final Solution”, the band teased the opening of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, much to the excitement of faithful fans. And when he strolled out for the encore, Murphy seemed like the coolest man alive—cigarette in mouth, strumming an acoustic guitar to “Indigo Eyes.”

01 His Circle And Her’s Meet
02 The Light Pours Out Of Me
03 God Sends
04 All Night Long
05 I’ve Got A Miniature Secret Camera
06 Dragnet Drag
07 Final Solution
08 Socrates The Python
09 Time Has Got Nothing To Do With It
10 Blind Sublime
11 Indigo Eyes
12 Funtime
13 Purple Rain

Surprisingly, I don’t remember Murphy covering Prince’s “Purple Rain”—perhaps I just blocked it from my memory. And while we stayed for The Church, I can’t recollect any details of their performance.

After the show ended, my group lingered around the side exit, hoping for a glimpse of Murphy. Instead, we saw his tour bus pulling away. We dashed to my car and tailed the bus along Market Street, a main artery of Philadelphia’s center city district. Keeping pace became more complicated after we went under an elevated train platform, and I weaved dangerously between support structures in an effort to drive alongside the bus. Our pursuit paid off when Murphy appeared in one of the windows. Mission accomplished, we headed home.