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Retro Futura’s stop at the Orange County Fairground was by far one of the most entertaining shows I have been to this year.  80’s heavyweights such as ABC and Belinda Carlisle graced the Pacific Amphitheater stage with incredible sets that took a pumped-up crowd on a wild ride back to what many consider a simpler  (and much cooler) time and place.  Sit back and relax as we give you a recap of all the performances that took the stage on Thursday evening.

Opening the show was none other than Annabella Lwin, the original vocalist of the band Bow Wow Wow.  It’s always tough opening up a quasi-festival like this, but she absolutely killed it with classics like “Do You Want to Hold Me?” and “I Want Candy”.  Wish we would have had more time with Annabella as she really put her heart and soul into this performance .  It would have been nice to here some more from her amazing catalog of music.

Next up was Limahl of Kajagoogoo.  Again, another abbreviated set but it hit on all cylinders with hits such as “Ooh to be Ah”, “The Never-Ending Story” and fan favorite, “Too Shy”.  Limhal’s vocal range was still on point, and sounded fantastic throughout his performance   At one point during the show, a superfan in the front row leaped forward and handed Limahal a picture of himself from the early 80’s (huge hair and all).  It took everybody in attendance way back to Kajagoogoo’s debut on MTV and really put an exclamation point on what turned out to be a very memorable 30 minutes

Tony Lewis of the Outfield has to been one of my all-time favorites from the 80’s, and I was stoked to see he was performing on this year’s Retro Futura tour.  Tony’s voice is unmistakable and had his way was with Outfield classics such as “Say It Isn’t So”, “All the Love”, and “Since You've Been Gone”.  The Pacific Amphitheater crowd was also treated to one of his latest tracks, “Into the Light”, off of Lewis’s 2018 release,  Out of the Darkness.  I have listened to all 12 tracks personally and this album is fire.  Check it out!

If you were a child of the 80’s, Modern English was a go-to on any mix tape you may have made (or had made for you).  Seeing them perform live for the first time, I was excited to see if Robbie Gray and company could reignite the fire of a special time long gone by.  As lights dimmed, the near-capacity crowd jumped to their feet as the band launched into 1986 hit “Ink and Paper”.  The bad sounded so good and continued to get better throughout the evening’s performance with hits such as “Someone’s Calling”, Moonbeam”, and “Hands Across the Sea”.  The final song of the evening was, yes, you guessed it, “I’ll Melt with You”.  Watching the entire crowd sing along to this 80’s staple was priceless and well worth the price of admission.

Hearing Belinda Carlisle (or The Go-Go’s for that matter) immediately takes me back to 1981.  I was 11 when Beauty and the Beat was released and can vividly remember wearing the needle out on my first record player listening to tracks such as “Our Lips are Sealed”, “This Town”, and We Got the Beat”.  On Thursday evening, that needle was back on the vinyl as Belinda Carlisle took the stage and literally blew the Orange County crowd away.  She played a 9-song set that was comprised of her solo material as well as tried and true Go-go’s classics.  “Heaven is a Place on Earth” was the final song of her set and showcased why she is still adored by loving fans all around the world.  Simply incredible.

The final act of the evening was none-other than 80’s synth-pop legends - ABC.  Fronted by the debonair Mr. Martin Fry, this band took the stage at around 9:00 pm and never looked back.  Fry’s voice seems to have aged like fine-wine, and mesmerized all in attendance with 10 ABC classics that had everyone off their feet and dancing to the beat.  Whether your jam was “How to be a Millionaire” or “Poison Arrow”, there was something for everyone Thursday night.  Martin Fry closed down Retro Futura on a high note with 1985’s “Be Near Me”.   It was the perfect song to cap off an incredible set from one of the most influential bands of the 80’s New Wave movement.  Bravo.

Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that the promoters of Retro Futura did a incredible job pulling this stellar 80's lineup together.  Each act sounded fantastic and were all worthy of being on a special bill like this.  And in a world where “nostalgia-type” shows are in many cases thrown together and watered down, Retro Futura -2018 was well-planned, flawlessly executed, and not watered down with any unnecessary fillers.  Definitely want to see how this franchise continue to grow and evolve – it’s a winner on all fronts.

Stay Frosty and Rock On!!

Matthew Belter

Executive Editor - Long Beach

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