Following thoughtful concerts by Suzanne Vega and Billy Bragg, it was time for Belinda Carlisle to bring the Friday night pop party to the reactivated Summer Nights at the Bandstand season.
Relieved of her footwear as is her habit, Carlisle danced barefoot, free to hop, skip and jump around the stage as freely as her teenage self, happy to recall her early days as a musician in LA punk bands and make reference to her years in the business.
Carlisle’s music is all about youth – youthful yearning and yearning for youth, capturing moments of hope, celebrating swooning romance and liberated flirtations. It is also about maximum tuneage, proper choruses, brash arrangements and excitable key changes – and that was just the first song, Runaway Horses.
But this youthful outlook was communicated with mature musicianship. She and her band of slick players surpassed their early high bar with the euphoric cheerleader singalong (We Want) The Same Thing in a trim set conceived as an efficient hit delivery system.
Couples’ choice In Too Deep and the AOR smooch of I Get Weak followed in short order, two prime examples of Carlisle’s shiny Eighties pop production with a side of radio-friendly rock, smooth, chiming keyboards and, in the case of Circle In The Sand, a gurning guitar solo. Carlisle’s vocals moved with the mood, taking on a Dolly Partonesque country pop quality on Big Scary Animal.
Her own favourite Summer Rain was a treat, evoking a spirit of warm nostalgia. Right on cue, some humid droplets started to fall as she hit the home strait with the soaring Leave A Light On For Me and air-punching Heaven Is A Place On Earth and Live Your Life Be Free, songs of their time which have weathered almost as well as encore classic Our Lips Are Sealed by her former band The Go-Go’s.