Live at the London Eventim Hammersmith Apollo
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In September 1981, Bananarama—Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward—released their debut single, a cover of Black Blood’s 1975 European charter “Aie A Mwana.” Curiously purposeful, given the ladies’ initial ironic, anti-pop posture, the combination of new wave and world music textures on the track garnered instant attention from the British music press. The single featured on their first LP, Deep Sea Skiving (1983). At the time of its reveal, the record showed signs of major musical ambition—that artistic gusto came to define the subsequent journey Bananarama would embark upon.
In quick succession Bananarama (1984), True Confessions (1986) and Wow! (1987) followed their inaugural set, each affair a unique—and successful—collection unto itself. In seven years, Bananarama had gone from being former fashion school drop-outs to one of the preeminent girl groups of the 1980s. Of course, this transformation had happened of the ladies’ own accord, but Wow! was a double-edged sword.
Produced in its entirety by the hitmaking trio Stock-Aitken-Waterman, Wow! was a much more streamlined offering than its three antecedents. The long player gave the group considerable chart clout, but it was a beast to create. Often the trio found themselves compromising some of their own sensibilities under pressure from Stock-Aitken-Waterman. This led to a breakdown of interpersonal dynamics between Dallin, Fahey and Woodward with Fahey separating from Bananarama in 1988.
Dallin and Woodward carried the group onward primarily as a duo barring the brief, but memorable tenure of Jacquie O’Sullivan from 1988 to 1991. Fahey kept herself busy with several musical oriented projects, most notably Shakespeare’s Sister. In all that time, Dallin, Fahey and Woodward reunited only twice—in 1998 and 2002—for two one-off shows. A full-blown return as a three-piece seemed unlikely. Then, on April 23, 2017, Bananarama shocked the pop world with the announcement of their “The Original Line-Up Tour.”
Having missed out on Bananarama’s formal large-scale world tour in 1989, “The Original Line-Up Tour”—which began in November 2017 in the United Kingdom—allowed Fahey to make up for lost time with her peers. The introductory run of 23 dates was triumphant, the vibes of a renewed chemistry between the three Nana’s undeniable. Without delay, Bananarama extended their tour into the following year stateside; their final shows returned them to their own English shores in August of 2018.
And while the friendship between Dallin, Fahey and Woodward was tighter than ever after the concerts concluded, a formal transition back to a trio was never in the cards. In fact, Dallin and Woodward have actively resumed the writing and recording duties for their eleventh album, the much-anticipated follow-up to Viva (2009). However, Bananarama were kind enough to leave a living record of their time shared together in the form of Bananarama – Live at the London Eventim Hammersmith Apollo. Coming behind their initial live album Bananarama – Live at Newcastle City Hall (2017), this secondary documentation of their “The Original Line-Up Tour” period is a far more expansive experience for fans.
Available in a variety of formats—deluxe boxset, triple vinyl, double CD + DVD, double CD—Bananarama – Live at the London Eventim Hammersmith Apollo has Bananarama in fine and fighting form throughout its run time. Focusing on the first five of their ten albums, Bananarama glamorously glide through all their classics: “Shy Boy,” “Cruel Summer,” “Venus,” “Love in the First Degree” and other lesser known singles.
Putting aside Dallin, Fahey and Woodward’s enduring affection for (and clever capability with) covers like “Aie A Mwana,” “Venus,” “Nathan Jones” and “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” their second live offering evinces how well their own material is aging. Replete with hooks to spare without shortchanging substantive verse structure, Bananarama’s canon remains one that is erroneously underestimated. The inclusion of the O’Sullivan era piece “Preacher Man,” one of the singles from the sorely unsung Pop Life (1991), is a highlight. Fahey acquits herself to the track well, likely due to it being one of own her self-admitted favorites from the Dallin/O’Sullivan/Woodward epoch.
Vocally, Bananarama couldn’t be anymore exquisite than they are here across the span of this double LP. Their unison singing style is as sweet and tangy as it was at their peak. However, age has brought on a certain level of expected precision and that refinement packs a real punch in relation to their performances having staying power.
In all, Live at the London Eventim Hammersmith Apollo is a fantastic treat for fans, enabling them to revisit this landmark show again and give those that were not able to attend a chance to engage with the magic of Dallin, Fahey and Woodward’s amazing—albeit temporary—return.
Notable Tracks: “Aie A Mwana” | “Cruel Summer” | “Preacher Man” | “Rough Justice”