Kim Wilde was at the height of her fame in 1981 with the single ‘Kids in America’ at number 1 in the UK, and only being kept off of the top spot in the States by Van Halen’s mega-hit ‘Jump’. In front of a large and enthusiastic crowd at tonight’s free concert in Bonn Münsterplatz, she remembered those days with a wry smile and the remark that “It helps when you’re my age and singing ‘Kids in America’ to have a sense of humour!” The voice was the same, the songs were the same (+ new ones), and if Wilde herself wasn’t the waif on the album cover with a hunky-dory Bowie haircut anymore, this was still 80’s Pop in the way it should be played.
Coming as it did at the end of a cycling marathon organized by the WDR broadcasting station meant having to stand in light rain as pictures from the marathon were replayed on the stage screen whilst an unfortunate man was led onstage sweating inside a large round ball costume and introduced as ‘Bommel’. I apologize whoever you were Bommel for hoping you would fall over as you jumped around so precariously. Would they have just rolled you off the stage I wonder? The other pre-concert entertainment was the call and return of people at the back asking people at the front to put their umbrellas down.
It’s ironic (pardon the pun) that I should catch Kim Wilde’s appearance the same week as seeing Alanis Morissette. The latter was a top selling artist in the 1990s, whilst Wilde holds the record for being the most-charted British solo female act of the 1980s. Morissette was playing at the Kunst!Rasen for 50 times the admission price of Wilde’s free appearance. Strange what just ten years can do to your earning potential (up the road this weekend Bonnie Tyler was making a similarly understated appearance at the Rheinbach Classics). So was Morissette actually fifty times better?
When Kim Wilde steps out onto the stage it’s still drizzling rain but that’s soon forgotten. I’m too busy deciding what to make of her outfit. A shimmery top coat that she calls her ‘cyber jacket’ replete with a holster that looks like it should hold a lazer gun or at the very least a colt 45. Yes, it all looks a bit silly, but hang on, Pop music always looked a bit silly didn’t it? I mean, Slade, ZZ Top, Culture Club even. There was always a gimmick. Towards shows end Wilde introduces her (excellent) band. Amongst them is her brother Rick on lead guitar. Before launching into ‘1969’ she recalls how Rick and her father Marty wrote most of the hits. Marty was of course himself a Popstar. “Pop music and those of you who bought my records all these years have given me this life I l love. It hasn’t always been easy, but I still love playing these songs!”
There are some new songs from the latest CD too. ‘Here come the Aliens’ is actually inspired by a UFO encounter that Wilde had in 2009, and despite the fun alien carnival masks, I notice that she spends a lot of time during the show looking up at the sky.
It’s the big hits that most of the audience have come to hear though, and thankfully Kim Wilde’s voice has weathered the last forty years very well. ‘Cambodia’ seems something of a historic time-capsule now, but if the lyrics don’t cut like they once did it’s still one to clap along to (and isn’t that proof of a great pop song?). I always loved the urgent rhythm built into ‘View from a Bridge’ and the dual drummers onstage gave the song plenty of clout too. ‘Kids in America‘ is one of those songs that stands for the period it was written in lyrically, but again, musically, it’s still great to hear hundreds of forty-plus year olds singing along to the chorus rather as the 30+ year olds did to Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’ last week.
‘Good Pop will never die’ is a mantra that Kim Wilde not only sings, but proves. She will be back for a tour of Germany that takes in Cologne later this year and worth a visit. Personally I would prefer that she wore something more sensible for the shows – but hey, this is Pop Music right?!