Terri Nunn & Berlin
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - September 24th, 2015)
Berlin, tonight opening for once-mega 80's UK band Tears For Fears, have always been one of my favorites to listen to. Whether it be back in the day, or lead singer Terri Nunn's version of Berlin on "their" last album, Animal, the American new wave band - formed in Los Angeles in 1978 by original member John Crawford - have survived admirably in this swallow-them-whole business.
For those that recall their brand of music, they first gained mainstream-commercial success in the early 80's with singles such as 'The Metro', 'Sex (I'm A...)', 'No More Words' and then in the mid-80's with the uber chart-topping single 'Take My Breath Away' - from the 1986 film Top Gun.
After a short video montage of the band's greatest hits, Nunn and her trio of new-Berliners take the stage. Sadly, its obvious from the off that she is in pain though for she is wearing a big, clumsy brace on her right knee. Distracting mightily from her chosen combination of a flowing red evening wear dress topped with a crow's next collar wrap, it also restricts Nunn from anything more than the odd gentle stage stroll. With only a handle of people on the lawn of this expansive 7,500 outdoor venue, and just close to around 300 in the seats, it must have been ominous for Nunn to witness, but the trooper she is, she launches straight into 'Trash' and never looks back.
"How are you doing tonight, Sterling Heights?" she asks the now-growing crowd, before the opening song bleeds right into a brilliant 'No More Words.' With a slightly out of sync video playing behind them, the band nail the track, Nunn's vocals already proving that she still has what it takes to sing live in these latter years. "Can this side sing louder than them?" she says, pointing at the other side of the venue, before ensuring her whirling arms at least make up for the fact her legs cannot do anything close. "How are you, Sterling Heights?" she asks again, adding "This is the last concert of the summer season here, and so we are honored to be here tonight. Thank you all for coming out."
With that, the electronic air raid sirens are heard and we're into 'Metro,' and yet another massively spot on rendition of one of their classic songs is brought forth. Indeed, old songs or new, it has to be firmly stated here that Nunn's vocals are fantastic on every single song, never faltering, never failing her. She is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best-sounding 80's artists - male or female - that I have ever had the pleasure to witness live in this day and age.
Moving on and after a bow to the audience's applause, Nunn and company give us 'Masquerade.' "Detroit," Nunn speaks, now changing the local city's name to a more rounded, globally-known one, "this is a really special night for us as it is our drummer Chris' birthday today." As the applause rings out, she adds, "Thank you all, and on the count of three, will you wish Happy Birthday to Chris with me." Which, of course, they all chime in with. "Thank you. Thank you. This is our newest song and video, and it's called Animal," she introduces, and suddenly we are forgetting birthday cake and are instead knee deep in some "new" new wave/synthpop from their 2013 album.
"This is a song from my childhood," Nunn next reveals, "and is a woman I always wanted to be when I was a kid." Jefferson Airplane's infamous Grace Slick-sung 'Somebody to Love' is then brought forth, albeit with an 80's pop/synth twist, of course. "You probably have already figured this out, but I tore my ACL," she says, pointing at her knee, "and so I can't dance. But I can sing and so I will do my best for you," she adds, to a loud round of applause. "This is for all the die hard Berlin fans out there. It's called Pleasure Victim," and with that she not only sings her heart out, but halfway through, walks out into the aisles of the venue to "meet" her fans.
Now back on stage, she lets everyone know that the next song is a "brand new song, that's coming out next year." She adds that she wants to know what they think of it, and then we get to listen to what actually turns out to be a rather decent song, 'All For Love.' Sometimes new songs from old school 80's synth bands can be, well, cheesy and halfhearted, but not this one. The gentle sway of the song combined with the synth back beat actually made this a mighty favorite of mine tonight. "Are you ready to dance?", she asks, adding "I need you to dance for me tonight. This is a song about how I like to watch my man striptease, and it's called With The Lights On." But before she launches into the song, she brings up on stage around 30 early bird's from the front few rows to dance, in one long line behind her. Which they all do admirably, and as Nunn twists and turns among them, it's obvious that she is having as much fun tonight as they are.
As they are escorted off the stage at the songs end, the band bleed into another of their monster hits, 'Sex (I'm A ...),' a song sung now barefoot by the still-going-vocally-strong Nunn. However, it has to be said that the shared vocals with her male guitarist didn't sound good at all, as he just doesn't have the voice to accompany her, sadly. That aside, she bows, collects herself, and then we get, with no introduction needed, the smash hit ballad, 'You Take My Breath Away.' "We want to thank Tears For Fears for having us here tonight," she says, at the songs end, and now back on stage from yet another audience foray, "and for everyone here, including the hot lighting guy that I don't know the name of," she laughs. "Thank you all for coming out and bringing this alive tonight. We've got time for one more song so get up and dance," she requests, before the band give us yet another highlight of the night, 'Dancing In Berlin.' As the song ends, she solo bows, they then group bow and as she waves goodbye, she adds, "Thank you so much for having us," and then, for now, Terri Nunn and Berlin are gone.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Photos by: Chris Schwegler @ www.ChrisSchwegler.com