As soon as I saw the flyer for this concert I was consumed with curiosity. As a schoolgirl I remembered well the catchy lyrics and “UK/Jamaican soul sound” of the band who produced yearly chart stoppers throughout the 1970 and 80s.
Despite the death of their lead singer, Errol Brown in 2015 they appointed Kennie Simon as the new lead vocalist and continue to tour to this day.
But first to the new to Australia, support act The Real Thing. Only a single hit, You to Me Are Everything was familiar to me, but what a revelation. The band hit the stage with amazing energy and drew a rapturous response from the all-but sold out gig. Sensibly the Astor Theatre sold off the balcony seats and the seats at the very rear of the ground floor, leaving the rest of the ground floor as a mosh pit.It was packed and responsive from the get-go. Wriggly dancing, arm waving and the extraordinarily enthusiastic sing along to the lyrics lead me to believe that the Liverpool band had a huge following with British immigrants of a certain age. They were a tight 4 piece band and vocalist Kennie Simon fired the audience up with calls to sing along and “Are you ready to disco?“ In the words of the lead guitarist “There are “homies here tonight!” Closing with the anthemic disco hit Celebrate and their massive worldwide hit You to Me Are Everything, The Real Thing were a showy, fantastic act and undeserving of the title of “support act”.
Hot Chocolate hit the stage, with the knockout Everyones a Winner Baby. As with the earlier act, The Real Thing, the audience was treated to psychedelic lighting backdrops and brightly coloured shadow images of the individual band members throughout the show. Surprisingly, far from being irritatingly distracting, it added to the truly retro vibe of the night
Hot Chocolate are a more polished ensemble than the first act and also in some cases degrees cooler and lower key. Their bouncy beat numbers were interspersed with a few nuanced sad storylines such as Emily.
I just wished whoever was responsible for the sound desk or perhaps the mike/amp set up for both sets had better clarity. The band members were way too amped up and the lead singers suffered the indignity of unclear, distant lyrics. This was particularly annoying in the numbers which were unfamiliar songs (ie. not huge radio and club hits,) where a few of the audience were not familiar the song or even the choruses.
Inviting us to “Partaay Tonight!” Hot Chocolate grooved on to I Gave You My Heart, Man to Man, Louie Louie and others unknown (to me!) as well as the spunky You Sexy Thing, unforgettably featured in the British cult film The Full Monty.
The finale was a delightful acapella version of I’ll Put You Together Again.
Both bands engaged in charming interplay with the audience, often blowing kisses, hand holding with front row audience members and mugging delightfully for hand held phone close-ups. It really added to the less constricted 70s/80s concert vibe with close and trusting fan interaction. Promising us to be back in two years’ time, the audience for the most part, left enraptured.
Supported by The Real Thing
Venue: Astor Theatre, Perth
Date: 12 October 2016
Astor Theatre, Perth WA 12 October
Adelaide Entertainment Centre SA 14 October
Enmore Theatre NSW 15 October
Evan Theatre, Panthers NSW 16 October
Wests New Lambton NSW 19 October
Canberra Southern Cross Club ACT 21 October
Palais Theatre VIC 22 October
Revesby Workers Club NSW 26 October
The Tivoli QLD 28 October
Twin Towns NSW 29 October