❉ Ange Chan reports back from a weekend of wall-to-wall eighties electro pop.
I’ve just returned from a fun-filled weekend of Electro-laden music at Butlins aka Electric Dreams. The all-adult special event promised to contain wall-to-wall electronic music, which very much floats my boat having been a fan of the genre for some thirty five years. It’s been booked in the diary for months (with two of my best friends by my side) so I was very much looking forward to it.
The shenanigans kicked off on Friday with male/female modern synth act Avec Sans who have been described by The Times as a “marvellously bittersweet Electro pop duo”. It’s always good to see such emerging talent at these types of mainstream events as it gives them a captive audience and a decent stab of a foothold in this ever-increasing competitive genre.
The act that followed Avec Sans was Go West, most famously known for tracks such as We Close Our Eyes and King of Wishful Thinking which was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster film ‘Pretty Woman’. They delivered a largely consistent set which strayed slightly with their rendition of Republica’s Ready to Go, which just didn’t work.
The highlight of the evening’s entertainment however was Heaven 17 who absolutely smashed it! Classic hits like Sunset Now, Come Live With Me, and Play to Win won the audience over immediately and chatty frontman Glenn Gregory had the audience in the palm of his hands.
Unsurprisingly, they finished their hit-laden set with their biggest song, Temptation, to a rapturous audience. The weekend was officially off to a promising start.
On Saturday, the night I was most looking forward to, we were treated to ex-Soft Cell singer and successful solo artist in his own right, Marc Almond.
As a massive fan of Marc I was expecting hits of Soft Cell and a few of the better known solo singles. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Marc open with tracks from his 2015 album ‘The Velvet Trail’.
Despite most of the crowd not necessarily knowing the songs, Marc’s stage presence and charisma won the crowd over from the off. That man certainly knows how to work a room!
Highlights from Marc’s set included The Idol and Adored and Explored from his mid-90s album Fantastic Star, and the Northern Soul interpretation of their biggest hit Tainted Love mashed up with the B-side of that single, another Northern Soul classic Where Did Our Love Go?
Other personal highlights included Brilliant Creatures and Hand Over My Heart from the Trevor Horn produced album ‘Tenement Symphony’.
Marc’s set ended, as most of his shows do with the Soft Cell anthem Say Hello Wave Goodbye. The 5,000 strong capacity audience sang along and many waved their inflatable pink flamingos aloft whilst doing so.
The evening could have ended there and I would have left the venue a happy woman, however more electronic treats were in store in the shape of Liverpudlian pioneers OMD.
I’ve seen this band on a number of occasions over the years, most recently at the Royal Albert Hall where they performed two of their earliest albums back-to-back. Tonight’s performance effortlessly moved from hit to hit to hit, each one as foot-tappingly wonderful as the last. Famous tracks such as 80s stalwarts Souvenir, Electricity and Maid of Orleans sat very nicely along more recent offerings like History of Modern. All in all a most satisfying evening encompassing two of my most favourite acts.
The final night’s entertainment was to start with Holly Johnson, the former Frankie Goes to Hollywood frontman. We waited and waited for him to appear and after more than 25 minutes, he finally showed up to a rather peeved audience.
He opened his set with Warriors of the West World from his second album with FGTH. Sadly this didn’t hit the mark with the crowd who appeared to be largely indifferent to his set. After five songs I found the lacklustre set wasn’t doing it for me much either, so I left, only to return an hour later for the much anticipated Blancmange.
Sadly, because of Holly’s tardy timekeeping, the entire evening’s schedule was pushed back. However, when Blancmange eventually came on stage they grabbed the audience’s attention immediately with their hit cover of the Abba track, The Day Before You Came. However the crowd really came alive with their best known commercial hits, Living on the Ceiling and Don’t Tell Me. They closed their excellent hour-long set with another 80s hit, Blind Vision which had the crowd baying for more.
The final act of both the evening and the weekend was the Greek-based female synth duo Marsheaux.
Their hour long set covered tracks such as the poppy Breakthrough through to the Depeche Mode cover of The Sun and The Rainfall taken from their cover album of Mode’s earlier works, ‘A Broken Frame’.
In my view they were the perfect end to a near perfect weekend. It was just a shame that because of scheduling issues (I’m looking at you, Holly Johnson!) Marsheaux didn’t come on stage til 11.35pm when most people had left. Their forty five minute set was definitely worth staying up for and those who left early, certainly missed out.
The entire weekend was organised at Butlins Bognor Regis in association with Vintage TV who have also conducted exclusive interviews with some of the acts, and filmed some of the gigs mentioned above. These TV programmes will be available to view (channel 81, Freeview) during February 2017, so if you’re interested to find out more, keep an eye on the scheduled listings around that time.
Electric Dreams 2017 will take place during the first weekend in December next year. Currently confirmed is Tangerine Dream, Howard Jones and Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins. See you there!
❉ Special Thanks to photographer Richard Price for permitting us to reproduce his work in this article.