Belinda Carlisle - Colston Hall, Bristol

Usually my gig going errs more on the Americana, rootsy side of music (the last two have been Drive By Truckers and Amanda Shires and the next is Hurray For The Riff Raff) so the trip to Colston Hall was something a bit different: a nod to my teenage years - which happened to coincide with the heyday of Belinda Carlisle. Her triple whammy of albums - Heaven On Earth, Runaway Horses and Live Your Life Be Free were mega-smashes and they form the core of tonight's setlist.

But nostalgia and boyhood memories aren’t always the best reason to give over a Monday evening to the M4 and Bristol traffic. The two-thirds full venue suggests that others had thought better of making the trip, but those who did turned out to be very enthusiastic, with lots of excited discussion pre-show and animated movement and excitable screaming throughout the 90 minute performance.

Carlisle is exactly as you’d expect. She looks like she hasn’t aged a day since 1988, floating about the stage like a barefoot flamenco dancer. While it takes a few songs for the soundman gets the levels right, the setlist is safe and by that point we’ve already heard ‘(We Want) The Same Thing’ and ‘I Get Weak‘. Her voice was always distinctive, never silky smooth. Today, she sounds more like Belinda Carlisle than she ever did.

Backed by a competent live band, who are a little too studied in their stage actions, she manages to survive a tricky middle section by choosing her most popular album and pulling stronger tracks from it (‘La Luna’ and ‘Valentine’). Surprisingly, things really take off when 1993’s medium hit ‘Big Scary Animal’ comes on. It flicks the switch on the party mode, the aisles fill with people dancing, much to the annoyance of the security team and more mature members of the audience. Her biggest hits follow: ‘Live Your Life Be Free’, ‘Leave A Light On’, and ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’, and I’m mostly re-converted.

While I wondered what I was doing at the show for the first 20 minutes, the eventual party atmosphere wins through. Carlisle may currently ply her trade with both feet firmly planted in nostalgia, but as pop acts go she has a deeper back catalogue than many of her peers - and those who made the trip to Bristol had a real good time in her company.


Photos by Kevin Gilvear taken at London's IndigO2. All rights reserved.

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