with the Romantics, The Smithereens,
Marshall Crenshaw & Tommy Tutone

A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The 80's was the decade of E.T., Live Aid, MTV, PCs, Rubik's Cube and plenty more. It was an era of distinct music. Metal became more mainstream, synthesizers were prominent in popular songs and catchy rock tunes also ruled the airwaves.

Romancing the 80s in Morristown
Whoa? What decade is this? The Romantics headlined the Rock of the 80's concert in Morristown.

Singles such as "A Girl Like You" (The Smithereens), "Someday Someway" (Marshall Crenshaw), "Talking in Your Sleep" (The Romantics) and "867-5309/Jenny" (Tommy Tutone) were some of the sounds that shaped the decade and were heard at the Rock of the 80's concert held at the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown, New Jersey on August 7, 2014.

The Smithereens were a stand-out band motivated by British Invasion pop but The Smithereens' hooks were haunting paired with brazen bass lines that gave them a singular sound that was familiar yet fresh. Marshall Crenshaw received much acclaim for his songwriting especially in the 80's. This guitarist/singer has continued to compose with many collaborations and awards to his credit.

Romancing the 80s in Morristown
The Smithereens celebrated the 80's with their timeless and essential music.

Heralding from Detroit The Romantics were influenced by the aggressive music of the Motor City. By the time The Romantics put out their first record they had found the right mix of pop with a punch, charting with "What I Like About You". The band Tommy Tutone achieved gold in 1982 with "Jenny". Since then they have worked sporadically together as a group while perusing other endeavors.

Upon our arrival, parked in front of the MPAC was a DeLorean similar to the car featured in the 80's movie Back to the Future. It set the mood for an evening of music that took back to the past. The event at the MPAC was the opening night for Rock of the 80's, which will be playing select cities through October of 2014. Generally the concert ran smoothly and future shows should become tighter as the tour progresses.

Jim Monaghan from New Jersey's 105.5 was the MC on Thursday night. He inquired how many people had dialed a certain number asking for Jenny as his introduction for Tommy Tutone. Lead vocalist Tommy Heath fronting a four piece said that they would be singing about another girl as they moved into the snappy "Sylvia". They presented an animated interpretation of "Angel Say No", which had been their first single, a track that reflected the spirit of 80's radio. Tommy jokingly introduced his guitar as Jenny before the group closed with an extended version of their chart topping "867-5309/Jenny". Fans had fun singing the famous phone number.

Romancing the 80s in Morristown
Rock of the 80's featured the Romantics, The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw & Tommy Tutone.

After a speedy set change, Marshall Crenshaw with his band ran through an efficient set showcasing some of his songs from the 1980's. Peppy prose peppered "Rockin' Around NYC" which flowed into the lively and lyrical "Mary Anne". "Someday Someway" was snappy moving quickly into more storytelling concluding with the search for a "Cynical Girl".

The Smithereens based out of New Jersey received a warm welcome as they went full force into the beguiling "Behind The Wall of Sleep". The band continued to bombard the audience with their best known hits including a peppy "Top of the Pops". "Only A Memory" was memorable with its blend of bold riffs and rhythms along with a bit of coordinated bandmate maneuvers.

In a tribute to their past and the British bands that influenced them. The Smithereens mixed "House We Use To Live In" with an intense instrumental from The Who. The Smithereens received a standing ovation for their spin of "Sparks". The Smithereens continued their engaging and energetic set closing with "Blood and Roses" and "A Girl Like You".

Romancing the 80s in Morristown
A DeLorean in front of the venue provided a trip back to the past where Back to the Future was all the rage.

The Romantics kept the pace rocking with their unique blend of pop-punk tunes occasional punctuated with a harmonica. "A Night Like This" was a prime example of an appealing yet edgy song that folks could clap along too. "Judy Be" an old-school rocker also had that vibe. "Talking In Your Sleep" is still a teasing tune propelled by heavy rhythms paired with an infectious hook. "Stone Pony" galloped at a fast pace in the tradition of punk rock. The Romantic completed their show with the feisty fan favorite "That's What I Like About You".

Rock of the 80's reflected the diverse sounds of the decade ranging from pop to punk. It showcased four popular acts presenting their hits from the days before smart phones and YouTube. Rock of the 80's was an entertaining trip back to the past.

The MPAC is located in the heart of historic Morristown, New Jersey. It is near plenty of restaurants and shops. The venue continues to showcase a wide range of events including Josh Turner, ABBA-The Concert, Yanni, Deep Purple, KWS, Steely Dan, Bill Engvall and Don Williams.

Romancing the 80s in Morristown
Rock of the 80's kicked off their time traveling tour at the beautiful MPAC in Morristown.

Related Links: For more information on the ROCK OF THE 80's concert and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Romantics | The Smithereens | Marshall Crenshaw | Tommy Tutone | Mayo PAC

(Originally Published on August 08, 2014)




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