HEAVEN IS A PLACE IN LEEDS WITH BELINDA
By Martin Hickes
LEEDS TOWN HALL: Oct 6 2015.
THANK heavens for Belinda Carlisle. At 57, not only is the pop songstress looking as sassy as ever, but - perhaps against the expectations of those who always suspected she represented looks over singing substance – she can certainly belt it out - and arguably better than ever.
Some like their Madonnas, (just about the same age as Belinda), some their Kylies, and no doubt their Beyonce’s and Taylor Swifts, but for some who fell in love with this California girl in 1989, she still represents a no-nonsense class pop act, with the accent being very much on enjoyably sophisticated American rock/pop – and with a hint of old-fashioned bubblegum/punk lurking somewhere in her pop id.
For some, it’s all too impossibly sugary; a saccharine set from the days of Debbie Gibson and Co and Tiffany etc, an anachronism from the pre-internet days. But that would be to do her an injustice.
For others, Belinda has always represented that classily understated type of performer – no twerking, Cornetto-like boobs, or overshort hotpants – just highly mainstream Stateside pop with a hint of vibrato, rock and sunshine, that makes you feel very happy. Very happy in a way that stylish femininity, sculpted high cheekbone looks and flowing auburn hair combined with a rock beat appeals innately.
But for anyone who doubted her ability to still rock – or, for those naysayers, to actually ‘sing’ – witness perhaps her latest tour.
Her classic 1950s/Ann-Margret style pulchritudinous-looks still shine through, perhaps with a slight sense of afterglow. But time has been more than friendly in terms of her voice which now has a throaty power which more than matches her bass guitar-accentuated backing group.
Leeds Town Hall – that bastion of Victorian verisimilitude – hosts around 1200 and all were on their feet right from the start for classic hits such as Summer Rain, Leave a Light on For Me, I Get Weak, and her signature tune of Heaven is Place on Earth, this time only done with an acoustic intro.
But there’s also another side to Belinda – one which can sing the slow ballads of Shades of Michaelangelo, Vision of You ,and other slower classics with gentle aplomb, which perhaps hint at the dark side of her character; the one influenced by self-confessed addictions of alcohol and drugs.
Now thankfully free of such demons, and cheered on by a significant LGBT contingent among the mainly 30 something + exuberant audience (her son is a gay rights/political advocate) – for many it was delightfully the 1990s all over again. Against the backdrop of an electrifying thunder and lightning storm, many in Leeds will leave a light on for her swift return.