Dave Appelbaum

Lost in the 80’s at Thunder Valley

Friday night was quite the ride down memory lane for everyone who listened to the radio back in the ’80s. The Fixx, Wang Chung and Naked Eyes all played to a packed Pano Hall at Thunder Valley Casino and Resort.

You could say this was a British invasion of sorts, since all three bands hail from England. They were a smashing success in the ’80s, all with No. 1 hits. It was quite an impressive lineup, with only one concern: What time will I get home? There’s a whole lotta hits to be played from each band.

Click for more images of Naked Eyes

Naked Eyes – best known for their first single, “Always Something There to Remind Me,” kicked off the evening with “Voices in My Head.” The band’s original members were Pete Byrne on vocals and Rob Fisher on keyboards. Fisher died in 1999, so Byrne is touring with three new members. When Byrne’s took the stage, he started searching the crowd as if looking for someone. I thought it a bit odd, but he may have been trying to size up the crowd.

During his set he kept telling the audience that it was OK to get up, dance and have a good time. The audience was slow to respond. However, by the end of the set he had a few people on their feet dancing, but only a small fraction of the audience.

Byrne had a good stage presence and was very energetic, but the lack of vocals on some songs hurt his performance. He sounded great on some of his older hits but not so good on others, as he seemed to struggle on the higher notes, and at the end of the set he only managed to get a small percentage of the audience on their feet.




Click for more images of Wang Chung

Wang Chung followed with a number of their hits, including “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” Original band members Jack Hues (vocals, guitar) and Nick Feldman (bass, guitar) were simply awesome. Hues worked up the crowd with his theatrics and excellent vocals, while Feldman did it with pure energy and total absorption in his performance.

The amazing story here is how awesome the band sounded, despite only rehearsing together for one day. I spoke to young keyboardist Dave Appelbaum, and, needless to say, he was quite ecstatic about being able to play a couple of gigs with the talented Wang Chung.

Appelbaum explained his involvement with the band, that it was one of those friend of a friend type of scenarios, and, before he knew it, he was hooked up with the band along with the drummer who happened to be in the same circle of friends. On Saturday they headed to Fresno to play another gig with the band, and they hope to hook up with them at future concerts.

Each of the “newbies” were armed with MacBooks and referencing their sheet music often. Regardless, they appeared to be playing effortlessly, as if they had been playing the songs for years. Appelbaum looked totally immersed in the moment, pounding on the keyboard and just plain rocking it. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of these guys in the future.

Wang Chung had the crowd worked up in a sweat. Most of the seats were empty, with people filling the aisles dancing. They didn’t sound just like they did when they were younger, but they still sounded awesome with Hues’ deeper, more mature vocals taking center stage. They played “Rent,” a new song off their latest CD, “Abducted by the ’80s.” The song is a very catchy tune reminiscent of the “’80’s with Feldman throwing a bit of Prince-like vocals into the mix.


Click for more images of the Fixx

With such an exceptional set by Wang Chung, I started to wonder how The Fixx was going to be able to follow such a performance. I didn’t have to wonder long. Front man Cy Curnin was just as animated, if not more so, than Hues. As Curnin sang, his hands were always on the move, telling their own story.

The Fixx stills tours with all its original members: Curnin, keyboardist Rupert Greenall, guitarist Jamie West-Oram, drummer Adam Woods and bassist Dan K. Brown. The band’s dynamic style and high energy immediately created a connection with the audience, bringing the majority of people to their feet. By night’s end there wasn’t a single person sitting.

Towards the middle of their set they played a new song, “Piccadilly,” which will be included in their upcoming CD. It will be their first original album in more than 25 years!

It was a fun night for all. Pano Hall started out full, but by the end of the night, about a third of the audience had left. I’m sure that was because the concert went past 11 p.m.

Thunder Valley Casino and Resort’s summer concert series runs through September so there’s still time to grab some tickets.


Naked Eyes set-listVoices in My Head
When the Lights Go Out
Fortune and Fame
I Could Show You How
Promises Promises
Piccadilly (new song)
In the Name of Love
Always Something There to Remind Me
Wang Chung set-list Wait
Fire In the Twilight
Let’s Get Along
Space Junk
To Live and Die in L.A.
Rent Free
Let’s Go
Dance Hall Days
Everybody Have Fun Tonight
The Fixx set-list
Red Skies
Are We Ourselves
One Thing Leads to Another
Yesterday, Today
How Much is Enough
Driven Out
Stand or Fall
Deeper and Deeper
Saved by Zero
Secret Separation



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