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LYNN — It’s the fall of 1980 and I’m in a Boston nightclub, either Metro or Spit, can’t remember which one, watching English band The Vapors and dancing like crazy to their hit “Turning Japanese,” which was receiving steady play on ‘BCN.
Here it is 39 years later and The Vapors, with original frontman David Fenton, are onstage at Lynn Auditorium Thursday night roaring through the song that was — erroneously — said to be about masturbation. Totally surreal! Ironically, Thursday marked the 38th anniversary of MTV’s first day on the air.
The Vapors are one of six bands that are part of The Lost ’80s Live tour. For the most part, it’s a fun trip down memory lane. The bands — A Flock of Seagulls, When in Rome, Martha Davis and the Motels, Real Life, Boys Don’t Cry and The Vapors — weren’t on stage very long. Opener Boys Don’t Cry singer Nick Richards and house band performed only two songs, including dumb hit “I Wanna Be a Cowboy.” Headliner A Flock of Seagulls, just frontman Mike Score and guitarist Gordan Deppe, did the most, six songs.
The biggest sacrilege? MTV stalwarts the Motels (Davis, keyboardist Marty Jourard and the house band) went on third and performed only three songs: “Take the L (out of lover, and it’s over),” “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Only the Lonely.” Davis’ voice remains strong and packed with emotion, but not performing “Total Control,” the greatest song in their catalogue, was unforgivable, even if time restraints was the reason. For many attendees, The Motels were the main draw and the short set left them disappointed.
The Vapors, who were discovered by The Jam (Fenton still sports a Paul Weller-like Mod hairdo), were a blast of guitar-fueled energy during their four songs. “Japanese” was the highlight, though “News at Ten” and “Jimmie Jones” were terrific, too. After 34 years of inactivity, they hit the road again in 2016 and have toured since.
A Flock of Seagulls sounded great, especially during “I Ran,” which became a loud audience sing-along, and a too-long “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You).” Mike Score no longer sports that bizarre, wild Aquanetted Trump-yellow coiffure; his head is clean shaven nowadays. He coaxed all kinds of sounds out of his Roland synthesizer, most of them melodic.
Real Life singer-guitarist David Sterry said this was his first-ever performance in Massachusetts, and the Australian made the most of his scant time on stage. Dressed all in white — white shirt, white pants, white Stratocaster, white hair — he and the house band delivered fine versions of New Wave hits “Send Me an Angel” and “Catch Me I’m Falling.”
Somehow, I missed When in Rome during their late-’80s heyday. But singers Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann hit the synthpop sweet spot, especially during closer “The Promise,” when Mann unleashed a red keytar.
The Lost ’80s Live tour is similar to the Retro Futura blowouts that have been a hit with Lynn Auditorium audiences. In the past two years, Retro Futura presented ’80s biggies Howard Jones, ABC’s Martin Fry, Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle, English Beat, Paul Young. This lineup wasn’t as strong. The show ended at 10:10 p.m., plenty of time for Davis and the Motels to have performed a couple of more songs.