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REVIEW: ROCKIN THE COLONIES

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1980s package tours can be intriguing prospects, but not always for the best reasons.

Before the sensible concert-goer plunks down his cash to see some bands who were in their prime in a time when synthesizers ran wild, MTV was a tastemaker and the Internet was years from being dreamed up by Al Gore, a few key questions often come to mind: Who exactly is in the band, anyway? Can they get through a song without being winded? And, most importantly, can they still play?

With this in mind, Medleyville checked out the Rockin the Colonies tour this week at Jenkinsons in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., featuring The Psychedelic Furs, The Fixx and The Alarm. Here is a handy
breakdown of each act (in the order in which they played):

* THE ALARM
Current touring lineup: Lone original member Mike Peters (vocals/guitar) with latter-day fixtures James Stevenson (guitars),Craig Adams (bass) and Steve Grantley (drums).

Positives: The quartet attacked most songs with a vigor befitting lads half their age, and it worked best on newer offerings, such as the opener "Superchannel" and the infectious rave-up "45 RPM" (though the latter was strangely spliced in the middle of the band's classic anthem "Spirit of '76) as well as "Absolute Reality," a dose of bouncy political pop from the mid-'80s.

Negatives: There were hiccups during staples like "Rain in the Summertime" that made it hard to forget that Peters, who left the original band in 1991, is essentially backed by hired guns.

Biggest surprise: The 48-year-old Peters looked remarkably fit, full of boundless energy and still in great voice, even after recently battling cancer for a second time.

** THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS
Current touring lineup: Core members Richard Butler (vocals),Tim Butler (bass) and John Ashton (guitars), plus Mars Williams(saxophone), Patrick Ferguson (drums) and Amanda Kramer (keyboards).

Positives: Where to begin? The Furs thrilled the largely 40-something crowd right from the first seductive note from Williams' sax on funky opener "Heartbeat" and never let up. It was an undeniably fun trip back in time, as the band touched on its best (and best known) material from its first four albums and even tossed in a new-ish tune that fit right in.

Richard Butler sashayed around, drawing howls from the females in the audience on the radio hits ("Love My Way," "The Ghost in You," "Pretty in Pink") while the ultra-tight band behind him positively slayed the snarling "President Gas" with the precision of old punks. But this was no nostalgia trip; the Furs sounded as vital and relevant as ever.

Negatives: The only possible nit-pick would be that the Furs, the tour headliner, apparently opted for the shorter middle slot on this night for unspecified reasons and played about 65 minutes. The performance itself was as flawless as you'll find from a band that is basically a part-time project these days.

Biggest surprise: New drummer Ferguson, a late replacement just before the tour, didn't let it show as he locked into an airtight groove and even made a few songs sound fresh by taking the tempo down a notch.

*** THE FIXX
Current touring lineup: Mainstays Cy Curnin (vocals), Jamie West-Oram (guitars), Rupert Greenall (keyboards) and Dan Woods (drums), plus Gary Tibbs (bass).

Positives: For much of the performance, there weren't really highlights to speak of so much as moments that were less mundane than others. The late-set combo of "Deeper and Deeper" and "Red Skies" woke up some of the remaining crowd, and "Saved by Zero" sent the diehards home happy, but it was too late to salvage such a poorly paced show.

Negatives: Beginning with three short, obscure songs that were at best unfinished and at worst poorly conceived, The Fixx quickly sucked the life out the room, so much so that even the next selection, a somewhat reserved version of radio staple "One Thing Leads to Another," did little to rev the crowd up. The long pauses between songs, ineffectual banter from Curnin and a few forgettable forays into prog-rock territory didn't help, either.

Handed the headlining slot for a night, The Fixx failed not only failed to match the Furs' energy or showmanship, they seemed content not to try.

Biggest surprise: Curnin, now sporting a brown-ish buzz cut rather than blond locks, is starting to resemble comedian David Brenner.

-- By George Henn

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