In any educated conversation about female artists of the 1980s, there are certainly going to be a few names that are unavoidable – Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, and of course, Madonna, all immediately come to mind. But as ardent fanciers of the totally awesome decade will attest, the roster of gifted women who first made their mark nearly 40 years ago is a considerably much deeper field.
Cue the Ladies of the ’80s, a multi-city showcase of a trifecta of talent lead by three time Grammy Award-nominee Taylor Dayne, probably best known for her 1987 smash dance hit, “Tell it to My Heart.” Along for the ride with the Long Island, NY-bred pop darling on the tour is freestyle icon Lisa Velez, who rose to fame as front woman of her better known urban contemporary namesake act Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, as well as R&B favorite Jody Watley, formerly of seminal soul supergroup Shalamar.
“I’ve been touring now for over 30 years,” Dayne told Royal Flush. “It’s always great to package with other artists as it’s a win-win for us and the fans since we reach a bigger audience.”
And it definitely helps when the individuals have a prior rapport with each other. “I’ve known Lisa and Jody for years and have seen them on the road often,” she added.
While the popular throwback tour has seen its share of lineup changes over the years, with names like Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and Bonnie Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) in the mix, the 2020 version is proving to have just the right amount of familiar grooves, syrupy love songs, rhythmic beats, and, natch, the requisite nostalgia.
The NYCB Theatre at Westbury hosted the raucous affair on Friday, January 31 and the venue provided its usual scenic and sonically-pleasing outlet for the three dynamic divas. Performed in the half round, no seat was more than 60 feet from the stage in the charming hall, a fact that enhanced the intimacy of the evening.
Dayne’s hour-long set, as expected, leaned heavily on material from the singer-songwriter’s first two records, her scorching double-platinum debut Tell it to My Heart, and its immediate follow-up, 1989’s Can’t Fight Fate, which spawned the chart-topping Diane Warren-penned classic ballad, “Love Will Lead You Back” – a clear highlight of the night, which showcased her precise vocal prowess.
A defective microphone during Dayne’s opening number could have easily acted as the impetus towards a marred performance. But to her credit, the seasoned veteran shook it off and rebounded nicely. The sultry “Prove Your Love” brought the funk to the forefront while “Don’t Rush Me,” ironically frantic, was belted out with the same passion originally heard in 1988. Finally, a rousing rendition of the reflective “I’ll Always Love You” perhaps Dayne’s most lyrically simple, yet beautiful, tune, took her melodious voice to new heights.
If getting out of your seat and dancing was your intended goal, Lisa Lisa surely helped the throngs of concertgoers in attendance with accomplishing it. Her pure, unadulterated energy was infectious on staples likes “Can You Feel The Beat” and encore “I Wonder If I Take You Home.” But the Puerto Rican songstress really shined on the Motown-inspired one-two punch of “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion,” while the poignant breakup ode “All Cried Out” prompted a mass sing-along among her devotees. Although her voice wasn’t quite as strong as her colleagues, she played to her strengths and managed to bring the party-like atmosphere to another level.
Watley, slotted as the opener on the trek, was in fine form. However, the cursory length of her allotted 20 minutes resulted in the genre-spanning performer’s set to suffer slightly, halting her momentum just as it was getting started. But her faithful renditions of dance-pop sensations “Looking for a New Love” and “Real Love” were crowd-pleasers, nonetheless.
Click here for Ladies of the ’80s upcoming tour dates.