REVIEW: A-ha, OMD and Tom Bailey score success with 80s fest at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium

A-ha's Morten Harket, OMD's Andy McCluskey and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins. (Photos: Robin Burns).
A-ha's Morten Harket, OMD's Andy McCluskey and Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins. (Photos: Robin Burns).

1984 - a year that's stuck in the nation's collective brains largely due to the George Orwell sci-fi classic that foretold Big Brother and round the clock surveillance.

It was also the year that Norwegian pop trio A-ha first announced their arrival on the worldwide musical scene with the timeless pop classic Take On Me and of course, its memorable 'hand-drawn' comic book video.

Back then, Doncaster Rovers were still plying their trade at Belle Vue and Billy Bremner was the manager. In the intervening years, A-ha went from being Scandinavian small time stars to global pop icons while Rovers' moved onwards and upwards and into the glittering Keepmoat Stadium.

And last night, 34 years on, the two finally collided head on as A-ha came to town, rolled back the years and thrilled thousands of fans with a huge outdoor concert, the first of two major shows at the Keepmoat this week.

90s hitmakers Steps will follow on Sunday, but this was a chance for children of the 80s to roll back the years to a time of legwarmers, deely boppers and big hair.

Kicking off proceedings was former Thompson Twins frontman Tom Bailey, now sailing his own ship and more than happy to deliver the pop standards his band became such fine purveyors of back in the day.

Dressed in an impeccable white suit and shades, Bailey leapt about with plenty of verve and energy as he tore through a synth driven set which included songs such as Love On Your Side, You Take Me Up and Hold Me Now.

Then it was the turn of OMD, or to give them their full Sunday best name, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

With the classic line-up of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys now back in place, the band delivered a slick and tight set dominated by some thumping drum lines and the group's trademark keyboard wizardry.

McCluskey's voice still sounds as sharp and as clear back as it did when the group first arrived at the tail end of the 70s and he led the delighted audience on a wave of nostalgia with a well-picked trawl through some of the group's greatest hits - coupled with what he described as "awkward dancing" as he hurled himself around the stage.

Enola Gay, Tesla Girls, Pandora's Box, Messages and Joan Of Arc - this was an excellent and lively energic, sing-along, clap-along and dance-along set that set the stage perfectly for A-ha to seize and make their own.

It was with some disappointment though that the Norwegian trio didn't.

Things started well with an opening salvo of Cry Wolf but then the band drifted into a selection of newer and not so well known material which seemed to fall flat with large chunks of the audience who stood stock still.

Not exactly blessed with the greatest stage presence, the musicianship couldn't be faltered but there was no between song patter, no amusing asides or anecdotes or shapes being thrown by lead singer Morten Harket.

Slowly but surely, things picked up a little, but the pace was still slow as the lads trotted through better known songs such as Train Of Thought and Stay On These Roads.

A touching crowd singalong during Hunting High And Low perked things up and a finale of The Sun Always Shines On TV, Bond theme The Living Daylights and of course, Take On Me, in which the band urged the crowd 'to sing for Doncaster, sing for Doncaster Rovers, sing for Kevin Keegan' showed that the lads had done their homework and ensured a more impressive exit then entrance.

However, there was a feeling that out on the pitch, OMD nicked the win while A-ha huffed and puffed their way through a slow and somewhat defensive display rather than grabbing a few open goals laid out before them.