House of Blues, Orlando • August 10, 1999
In the explosive music scene of the late Seventies and early Eighties, after surviving ’70s rock and disco, the yin and yang of modern music took over the scene: punk rock and new wave. And even though punk rock has survived in some form or another over the years, new wave quickly came and went and became overplayed and overdone mainly because of artists like New Order and the Cure. And even today, misguided DJs on VH-1 and MTV call The Go-Go’s a punk rock band. But the truth is, graduates of the retro scene felt the original new wave of the early Eighties boasted a high tech, danceable sound that still purveys retro lunch hours, dance clubs, and “new music” stations around the country today. Howard Jones, along with artists like the Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby, Talking Heads, Blondie, and many others here and in the UK fed us good party music. The yang to punk’s yin.
If the world is a sort of spiritual shrine of fun, then Howard is her master. And if he doesn’t love to tour, then he’s one hell of an actor. The set at House of Blues was simple: the amazing Nick Beggs on bass/Chapman stick, Robbie Boult on guitar, Guy Richman on drums and Howard and his keyboards, including piano, synthesizer, and Apple Mac. Beggs did a crazed but cool solo the night we saw them, and it’s evident that the band is closely knit. Most selections were old favorites like “What is Love,” “Like to Get to Know You Well,” “Life in One Day,” and “No One is to Blame.” Newer songs off of his latest disc, People , included “Everything,” “Tomorrow is Now,” and the ballad “Wedding Song.”
A somber moment brought Howard’s personal dedication of “No One is to Blame” to his longtime drummer, Kevin Wilkinson, who committed suicide on July 15, 1999. Wilkinson’s drumming career included membership in Squeeze, the Waterboys, China Crisis, and the Proclaimers. Guy Richman stepped in on drums for this tour.
Opening act with cheesy name, Darling titillated my cohort Suzy as she described them as “yummy.” (Down, Girl). The four boytoy band offered a swooning sound a bit like Live. Hailing from Orlando and sounding like it, the lead singer almost swallowed the microphone a couple of times as he moaned and shuddered into it. Their show breaker song that they finished up with is titled “Maudlin”.
I have two, and only two complaints about the House of Blues. One, they wouldn’t sell bass player Nick Beggs and me a drink after the show at a paltry 12:25 AM. Apparently, they close bar after the bands, which is a really sorry idea. And two, my bartender, Michael, didn’t know what a tall drink was. Sorry Mike, but at $5 a pop for mixed drinks, that’s an oversight that I can’t ignore. BTW, it’s a drink with twice the mixer and one shot of alcohol.
Otherwise, HOB is clean, with several tiers of balconies, some seating, and the sound is great. It holds 2,000 but is cozy, as you’re allowed to stand at the artists’ feet, no problem. Of course, it is Disney, the unbashful occupants of Orlando and Kissimmee. But sometimes Disney is not such a bad thing. After all, investors include Dan Ackroyd, Aerosmith, Paul Shaffer, Carly Simon, James Belushi, Joe Walsh, George Wendt, John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes, Harvard University (huh?), Dennis Hopper, Walt Disney Corp, and the estate of River Phoenix. Needless to say, HOB did a lot right. Let’s just say I’ll gladly go back.
Jones’ tour takes him to more House of Blues venues and on to Las Vegas and several gigs in California. And it’s nothing but good, steamin’ hot, new wavy gravy, man.