The Thrill of the Eighties, Still Fresh For Sacramento

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It almost feels silly to review an Eighties cover band, because it's one of the most widespread and commonplace genres of live music. How different could one band be from the next? But there's something special about Tainted Love.

That magic is found somewhere between the crowd's rapt attention and Tainted Love's reckless onstage energy. At their show on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Harlow's in Sacramento, the band managed to transcend the ordinary genre of Eighties dance music, and put an extra zing into their show. It's not that I mind Eighties music - really, it's my favorite to dance to - but I never thought you could add much to the rhythmic, riff-heavy, synthesized music of Men Without Hats and Bon Jovi.

In the music world, live concerts fall on a spectrum between two extremes. On one end, the music is perfectly recreated, as if played directly from the album. On the other end, the concert is a memorable show, full of live action and energy that an album just can't convey. But that Saturday, Tainted Love took the action in a new direction, moving with the audience and amplifying their energy.

On one song after another, the entire crowd sung along. Really, really loudly. Even on tunes with complicated lyrics, like "It's the End of the World As We Know It" and "Video Killed the Radio Star," the crowd was right in time with the lead singer. It says something about a band when the crowd is inspired to sing along, and it says something about a crowd when they know all of the words.

This crowd in particular was younger than I expected, and many of the attendees had not grown up in the Eighties. One fan, Marie Hernandez, explained the appeal of the show: "It's a cover band, I know all the songs, and it's fun to dance to." She said that people of all ages showed up, not just the children of the Eighties, because the music's pull is so universal.

Another fan, Anthony Julien, said he was thrilled with the concert. "Because I graduated in 1984," he said, and "they capture the 1980s very well." Purple Rain was Julien's favorite song in the first set. "They really get it," he said. "It just makes me smile again."

Technically, the show was impeccably produced. A constant series of fast lighting changes highlighted the rhythms of the songs, and the band's sound blend was top quality. The harmonies were especially snazzy, even on difficult songs like "Video Killed the Radio Star," which made Tainted Love's sound even more alluring and danceable.

After seeing such a dynamic show, I have to wonder if Tainted Love ever gets tired of repeating the same repertoire over and over again. But I don't think they do. The joy on their faces is real, and their interaction with the crowd is constant. Each performer, from the lead singer to the drummer, was clearly grooving on the crowd's reactions, which it readily provided for the entirety of the show. Tired of the songs? I think Tainted Love sees each concert as a new opportunity to have some fun and connect with a different audience, and that's exactly what they did on that Tuesday night.

EBAC thanks Tainted Love for providing access to this show.

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