It took three things to make it in the music industry in the 1980’s. 1) Fabulous hairdos. 2) Marvelous outfits. 3) Amazing videos. That’s what Howard Jones confessed to the sold out crowd at the Oriental Theater on Saturday night. Jones definitely had impressive spiky blonde hairstyles, colorful threads, and expensive videos played repeatedly on MTV. But it was his innovative keyboard playing and catchy positive pop songs that earned him fifteen top forty singles. Jones also took part in events that defined the decade such as 1985’s Live Aid Concert and the 1986’s The Prince’s Trust Rock Concert both taking place at Wembley Stadium in London.
Some thirty-five years later, Jones’ hair is gray, his clothes are mostly black, and the lavishly produced material have been stripped down. But his songs remain timeless. The audience was thrilled to hear a set filled with hits and stories about navigating life through the 1980’s as a pop star.
It was billed as the Howard Jones Acoustic Trio. Nick Beggs played the chapman stick (a large fretboard with multiple strings that can produce bass and melody lines at the same time) and the bass guitar. Beggs has played with John Paul Jones, Gary Numan, and Belinda Carlisle. More importantly he was a founding member of Kajagoogoo. Jones played their 1983 hit song Too Shy to the audience’s delight. Beggs wore an all black shirt, kilt, and hat ensemble.
Guitar player Robin Boult switched between a 12 string and 6 string acoustic guitar throughout the night. Over the years the world class musician has played with Dave Stewart, Roger Daltrey, and Fish (not Phish). He wasn’t in Kajagoogoo, but his résumé is equally impressive. Boult was wearing a floral shirt with black jeans (not as impressive as a kilt).
The night was filled with stories of celebrity encounters. Howard explained how the Prince’s Trust Rock Concert was a noble charity that conveniently allowed Princess Diana to meet her favorite musicians. During the famous charitable event, Jones bonded with Paul McCartney over being a fellow vegetarian. That story led into his remarkable version of The Beatles’ Oh Darling. Howard also described working endless days coming up with the perfect drum loop for No One Is To Blame. Since another 80’s icon Phil Collins produced the track, everyone assumed it was Collins’ work.
During the show it struck me how sweet and positive Jones’ songs are. He ended the night with his biggest hit Things Can Only Get Better which might be his most optimistic one in his catalog. “We’re not scared to lose it all security throw through the wall/ Future dreams we have to realize/ A thousand skeptic hands won’t keep us from the things we plan/ Unless we’re clinging to the things we prize.”
Rachael Sage started the night of music off with a whimsical set of personal songs. The majority of the tunes featured finger snapping and one song even had a kazoo. Sage released the song Blue Sky Days the day before the concert about her cancer recovery. “Blue sky days/ White ocean’s open embrace/ Gold sun rays / Red moonlight’s G-d given grace.” Kelly Halloran backed her up on the fiddle and vocals giving more depth to the material.
See you a the next show. I’ll be the one that used to have a fabulous eighty’s hairdo.