Video Killed The Radio Star may be a cheesy, disposable pop song from 1979 but it was responsible for launching Trevor Horn’s career, during which he has been a producer for the likes of Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and Simple Minds. Although none of them make an appearance on the bill for tonight’s Prince’s Trust fundraising celebration there are plenty more Horn-produced acts from the past 25 years for the audience, including Prince Charles, to get their nostalgic teeth into.
The infamous Buggles hit starts proceedings, with Horn on vocals and guitar impeccably recreating the original, and sets us up nicely for the carbonated glamour pop of Dollar as David Van Day and Thereza Bazar trot onto the stage to perform a couple of their badly dated hits. He may now serve up burgers rather than hit singles to the public but Van Day shows he has still got the magic with his eighties, school-disco-style dance moves.
A stark contrast is offered by Grace Jones as she struts on stage in a black, peacock-style head-dress, billowing black cape and black leotard to perform Slave To The Rhythm, looking as scary and severe as ever. The jolly tones of Scottish seven-piece Belle & Sebastian help the fear subside as singer Stuart Murdoch skips his way through Step Into My Office, Baby before the line, “I was burned out after Thatcher”, serves as an unwittingly apt introduction to next act, ABC. As fop-haired frontman Martin Fry sings, “Who broke my heart?”, during Shoot That Poison Arrow, some of the crowd point back for the “You did, you did” reply, and you get the feeling he probably did via many of the audience’s bedroom walls, though perhaps not in the gaudy gold-sequinned suit he dons for his powerful performance of The Look Of Love.
Horn keeps the show flowing, offering anecdotes and autobiographical stories between acts and providing guitar during each short set. Tracks from sample-pioneers the Art Of Noise and some painfully dated, arty synthpop courtesy of Propaganda serve as a distraction until Yes take over the reins to perform Owner Of A Lonely Heart. The song itself is well performed but is book-ended by some over-indulgent, prog-rock fret-fiddling, dividing the audience with needlessly drawn-out, psychedelic twaddle.
The Pet Shop Boys‘ post-interval set is somewhat better received by the crowd as they run through Left To My Own Devices and It’s Alright. With Neil Tennant dressed in black jeans and jumper and Chris Lowe virtually motionless behind his keyboard, they are as dour as ever, but the music provides the excitement their performance lacks, getting the crowd on their feet for the first time tonight. Following a brief taste of some new material from Lisa Stansfield, Welsh wonder Tom Jones introduces Latvian mock-lesbian lovers Tatu, who play their number one single All The Things She Said minus both chemistry and conviction. It comes as a relief when Seal jumps into the crowd to sing best-known anthem, Killer, and applies his distinctly rich voice to the equally well-received Kiss From A Rose and Crazy before it is time for the much-anticipated headline act to grace the stage.
A ballet-dancing duo perform before the calm is broken by the rousing charge of Welcome To The Pleasuredome from a re-formed Frankie Goes To Hollywood, albeit minus original singer, Holly Johnson. Replacement singer, Ryan Malloy’s voice is higher pitched, lacks the gravitas of Johnson, and at times sounds whiny with his rendition of Two Tribes passable but unremarkable. He dramatically tears his top off during set-closer Relax to reveal some shiny golden sleeves: it is a shame his voice does not quite live up to his undeniable showmanship and the absence of the rumoured celebrity vocalist for the finale only adds further to the disappointment.
The high-points of the night are tempered slightly by the less-talented or less-memorable acts, and by the slightly flat Frankie’ reunion, but overall the night proves to be a star-studded success mixing up acts both old and new and showcasing an amazingly varied career. When Seal confides “I was a fan without even knowing it” he speaks for many others who, unbeknown to them, have listened to and loved Trevor Horn’s productions for many years. A largely enjoyable and deserving tribute featuring some memorable moments in pop.