Slave To The Square Wave
Revival Theatre Toronto
Saturday, January 25th 2020
By Keith Sharp
Thirty-seven years after they last performed together at Kingswood north of Toronto (1985 to be exact), Liverpoolâ€™s China Crisis hooked up again with Montrealâ€™s Rational Youth, this time at Torontoâ€™s Revival Theatre with local band Slave To The Square Wave opening the triple bill by getting patrons on to the dance floor with a short but spirited set.
It was another one of ace charity-raising entrepreneur Ed Sousaâ€™s efforts to promote 80â€™s synth-pop bands, and like he has done previously with The Spoons, The Box, Images In Vogue and another Liverpool band, A Flock Of Seagulls, Sousa has successfully showcased another pair of retro pop bands in the Southern Ontario market.
In this case, Rational Youth has been reduced now to the married pair of Tracy and Gaenor Howe while China Crisis originals; lead vocalist Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon are now supported by keyboardist Jack Hymers and saxophonist Eric Animan.
Noted for being Canadaâ€™s first synth-pop band with their debut `Cold Water Night Lifeâ€™ release in 1982, Howe is now the sole survivor of Rational Youthâ€™s original four-player set up but along with his wife, Gaenor capably handles both the vocals and keyboard arrangements with all the key instrumental elements pre-programmed.
Although, at times, cutting somewhat sparse figures on stage, the Howesâ€™ covered most of the bandâ€™s key tracks with the bandâ€™s ground-breaking â€śDancing On The Berlin Wallâ€ť, â€śClose To Natureâ€ť, â€śJust A Sound In The Nightâ€ť and the closing â€śSaturdays In Silesiaâ€ť drawing strong reactions from the crowd, many of which seemed thrilled to see Rational Youth back in action again.
The nightâ€™s big attractions though were China Crisis, a new wave synth band in the same mould as A Flock Of Seagulls, Echo And The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Frankie Goes To Hollywood who never really caught on commercially this side of the Atlantic during their heyday of the mid-Eighties, but listening to their infectious synth-pop numbers, itâ€™s a crime that so many great songs were originally ignored.
Driven by some excellent sax work from Animan, the band delivered a 13-song set of infectious pop melodies propelled by Hymerâ€™s keyboards and Lundonâ€™s guitar rhythms yet the real star of the band was lead vocalist Gary Daly. Aside from delivering key vocal melodies like â€śArizona Skyâ€™, â€śAfrican And Whiteâ€ť, â€śBigger Than Punchâ€ť and â€śTragedy And Miseryâ€ť, Dalyâ€™s communication with the audience was delivered with typical Liverpudlian piss-take humour.
Introducing â€śItâ€™s Never Too Lateâ€ť, Daly explained that this track was supposed to be the follow up single to, â€śWishful Thinkingâ€ť but their record label (Virgin) thought it was too similar so it was relegated to be the B-side to â€śBlack Man Rayâ€ť â€śIf we had released â€śItâ€™s Never Too Lateâ€ť as the next single, weâ€™d all be floating around the South Seas in our yachts right now instead of playing crap gigs like this one,â€ť
And talking about music cassettes making a comeback, Daly observed â€śwhat sort of horseshit is that. You could never find a certain song on any cassette and good luck if it was a Yes album!â€ť he noted.
Introducing â€śKing In A Catholic Styleâ€ť, Daly implored the crowd to recapture the spirit of Queen performing â€śRadio Ga Gaâ€ť at Live Aid by clapping in time to the song, a request his audience duly complied with.
Finishing off strongly with â€śWorking With Fire And Steelâ€ť and â€śChristianâ€ť before returning for a three-song encore of â€śSeven Sports For Allâ€ť, â€śFoolâ€ť and â€śSoul Awakeningâ€ť, China Crisis proved that maybe the U.S market initially overlooked this band in favour of domestic acts like The Talking Heads and REM, but the quality of their music has stood up well and China Crisis is as relevant today as they ever were back in the mid-â€™80s.