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3 bands take crowd back to the '80s

Some music from the '80s is an awful lot like the fashion of that decade -- garish, a touch over the top, a bit processed.

Some of it has stood the test of time, however. Particularly when you have bands like the Killers, Strokes and Muse reprising the grandiosity and epic, romantic nature of the music that fit the alternative label.

U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Smiths, and many others made some lasting and impacting music during the me-decade.

A trio of these groups got together for a short summer tour, dubbed it "Rockin' the Colonies," and made it to North Tonawanda on Saturday for a well-attended and well-received show. Not everything ages like wine, of course. But for the most part, the bands -- The Fixx, The Alarm and the Psychedelic Furs -- slammed out sets redolent of the more timeless aspects of rock music. The sort that sounds good 10, 20 or 30 years on.

The gig opened with a stirring set from The Fixx, a group which initially emerged as a sort of post-Bowie, new-wave outfit centered around dramatic song structures and the dynamic interplay between Cy Curnin's emotive tenor and the smart, textural guitar figures of Jamie West-Oram. Time has done little to diminish the talents of either.

The band's ethereal sound and taut, funky rhythms made '80s albums such as "Reach the Beach" attractive to both casual radio listeners and hard-core music-heads, and not surprisingly, much of The Fixx's set was comprised of its hits: "One Thing Leads To Another," "Red Skies," "Stand Or Fall" -- smart and interesting pop tunes. There also was a healthy portion of lesser-known fare, including the brilliant "All Is Fair In Love and War." The band was incredibly tight, and Curnin's singing was pretty close to perfect throughout.

The Alarm blasted through a killer set of mostly new songs, and posited itself as a band very much in the present tense. Leader and vocalist/guitarist Mike Peters has survived a devastating bout with leukemia, only to return to the concert stage stronger than ever.
Leading a new ensemble, whose members have served time in several of the finest alternative bands, among them Sisters of Mercy and Stiff Little Fingers, Peters urged the crowd into a frenzy with his enthusiasm. Channeling the spirit of Joe Strummer, Peters strong-armed the band through new tunes such as "Without A Fight" and "Superchannel," taut punk tunes delivered with energy and passion.

The Alarm played its hits, too. "Rain In the Summertime," "Rescue Me" and "68 Guns" were show-stoppers. The crowd responded with an outpouring of ample appreciation.

The Psychedelic Furs, then, had a lot to live up to, and based on the band's catalog alone, that shouldn't have been a problem. The Furs -- led by deep-throated eminence grise Richard Butler -- brought a pop edge to dark, romantic '80s alt-rock, taking the subterranean theatrics of Bowie and bringing them into a slightly depraved underground, where the songs still managed to be conjured into radio-friendly pop.

The band sounded fine, even if new material has been lacking for quite a while. The songs -- "Love My Way," "Pretty In Pink," "Alice's House," "President Gas," "Into You Like A Train," "The Ghost In You" -- still retain the seedy elegance after all this time.

Butler is a blast to watch on stage, coming across like some particularly depraved English college professor. Trouble was, his singing -- always gruffly elegant, a sort of debauched croak that perfectly suited the band's epic sound -- was not at its best on this night. He was noticeably dragging behind the beat for much of the gig, and though he's always done this, to a certain extent, it seemed to drag the music down into a miasmatic state.

There were moments of grandeur in the Furs' set, to be sure, but for the most part, the night belonged to the fire-breathing Alarm and the musically-astute Fixx.



>Concert Review

Rockin' the Colonies Tour

Featuring the Psychedelic Furs, The Fixx and The Alarm as part of Molson Canal Concert Series on Saturday night at Gateway Park, North Tonawandas.

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