I’ve seen Bananarama in concert half-a-dozen times over the last 20 years, but yesterday was special. The original three-woman lineup (Sarah, Keren and Siobhan) is touring for the first time ever, so naturally I went all the way from Sydney to Ipswich to see it. Here’s a random selection of highlights from the evening.
Weirdly, everyone entering the venue had to empty their pockets and be patted down. Who knew Nana fandom was so gangsta? The security queue manager told us this was based on a request from the promoter, rather than being normal Ipswich procedure. But no matter, it didn’t take long.
Standing room only
From the moment the opening notes sounded (eventually to become ‘Nathan Jones’, fact freaks), the entire crowd in the stalls stood up, and didn’t sit down for the duration of the show. For pop fans in their 40s, this is frankly unusual behaviour, but very welcome.
Best staging ever
The most elaborate staging I’ve seen the Nanas use previously has been a pair of back-up dancers. For this tour, there’s a tiered stage, elaborate lighting, a full band and a mass of video projections, including outtakes and extra footage from iconic videos.
I ended up seated next to Rashid. Impressively, it turns out we’d both been at the 20th anniversary gig at G-A-Y back in 2002, which was the last time all three girls were on a stage together.
All the hits you weren’t expecting
Obviously, all the big hits were present, but a huge part of the fun of this night for me was hearing songs the Nanas have never done in concert before when I’ve seen them. ‘Rough Justice’, ‘More Than Physical’, ‘Aie A Mwana’ and ‘Cheers Then’ all made an appearance, while ‘Shy Boy’ got mashed up with ‘Boy Trouble’. And of course the Nanas do a version of Shakespear’s Sister’s ‘Stay’, and also acknowledge the Jacquie years with ‘Preacher Man’, described by Shuv as her “favourite post-me song”.
A key reason I headed to Ipswich was because the timing fitted in. But a secondary benefit is that the Regent Theatre in Ipswich is a much more intimate venue than where the Nanas played in London.
Lots of solo vocals
The essence of the Nanas sound is three voices blended as one, but during the evening every single member got a chance to sing solo lines, with the others contributing backing and harmony. This was put to particularly effective use on ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It’, covering for the Fun Boy Three bits really well.
The band enjoying themselves
With some band reformations, it’s obvious everyone’s in it for the money and is performing with gritted teeth (case in point: Spandau Ballet). That wasn’t happening here. The Nanas looked as relaxed and happy as ever, with Shuv entirely a part of the proceedings.
All in, an amazing night, and tonight I get to do it again in Southend. NANA NANA!