Go West

Icons of the ’80s – Cutting Crew, Go West, Nik Kershaw: Edinburgh Playhouse, 21 February 2018

I like a good value gig, so when my Rewind partner-in-crime suggested we try the Icons of the ’80s triple-bill I naturally said yes. The Playhouse was packed to the rafters, proving that nostalgia is still very much a profitable industry.

Cutting Crew opened the show with some good-natured banter and a passable song I didn’t recognise. Somehow, they stretched to a seven-song set, including an R.E.M. cover and two new songs that sent the obviously misplaced teenagers in front of us running to the bar. “Oh god, it’s the ‘damn bitch took all my money’ divorce song,” my friend remarked. When they finally reached (I Just) Died In Your Arms, complete with an extended, prog-tastic guitar intro Pink Floyd would be proud of, I’m afraid to say my thoughts had drifted to the bar too.

The night was saved, though, by the dream team of Kershaw and Cox. Unlike the previous triple-bill the big acts joined forces, contributing backing vocals and guitar to each other’s songs when needed. So tremendous were their combined skills, they accomplished the amazing feat of making me like U2 with their opening cover of Beautiful Day. Nik kept his big hits powder dry, starting with Wide Boy and a punchy rendition of Dancing Girls, then closed the first half with the roof-raising The One And Only (“It’s ’90s, but I wrote it in the ’80s,” Nik says in its defence). Meanwhile, Peter mainly stuck to the well-known Go West tracks, keeping between-song chatter to a minimum. (Tom Robinson at Rewind 2017, take note.)

Both acts were in fine fettle musically. Nik’s guitar skills stood out in particular on Wouldn’t It Be Good, and Peter’s vocals are as soulful and strong as ever, especially on Faithful and underrated gem Don’t Look Down. Singing together, their harmonies were spot-on and their voices complemented each other’s nicely.

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To fill out the set, a variety of ’80s classics were covered, with mixed success. Hungry Like The Wolf was merely so-so, but Everybody Wants To Rule The World was as close as dammit to the original, and the hard-edged, rock-dub take on Sweet Dreams was an absolute joy to behold. And yes, just like at his Rewind appearances, Peter catered to the fans with perennial cover favourites Black & Gold and Sex On Fire. This seemed to finally get his small teenage audience on board, judging by the outbreak of moshing and Facebook Live streaming that ensued. Indeed, by the end the Playhouse staff were fighting a losing battle with the tipsier audience members dancing in the aisles and falling into the row in front of us, to the strains of I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.

If this concert is anything to go by, June’s Let’s Rock Scotland crowd are in for a treat when Kershaw and Cox hit the stage. (Why yes, I already have my tickets. I’d grab one if I were you.)