By Jeff Walsh
I go to a lot of concerts. It isn't a rare experience for me. I see the big bands in the huge arenas and the up-and-comers in the clubs. But I have to say, the True Colors Tour was an incredibly rare event.
For those of you who don't know, True Colors was put together by Cyndi Lauper, and at the tour stop I caught in Berkeley, featured The Dresden Dolls, Debbie Harry, Erasure, and Cyndi. (It also featured openers The Cliks and The Misshapes, but to be honest, I was having dinner when they played.) The entire show was about gay and gay-friendly acts getting together to raise awareness. From the moment you entered the venue, when you were given a purple "Erase Hate" rubber bracelet from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, to the big HRC logo above the stage, it was clear that this event was going to be different.
And, throughout the show, the crowd was just delightful. I'd never seen so many people smile at strangers, be generous, loving, and I think all of that amazing positive energy is what transformed the crowd into such a communal dancing party by the time Erasure came onstage. It was a crowd without ego, pretense, or drama (oh, and there were a lot of hot guys, too).
First up, The Dresden Dolls. Now, I adore the Dresden Dolls. I saw them open for Nine Inch Nails, and even went to catch them at an in-store when they were in town a while back. Just a fun time with a guy and a girl sending out their punk cabaret vibe with piano and drums as their primary instruments. They covered Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," which seemed as inappropriate for the crowd as it was perfect. And they closed their much-to-short set with my favorite song of theirs, "Girl Anachronism." Given how short the Dolls got to play, I can't imagine how brief the first two bands were.
Next up, Debbie Harry. I have to say it, she's old but she rocks. All of her songs were upbeat guitar-heavy barnburners that I never heard before, but actually liked. But, you could almost feel a collective yearning throughout the crowd between every song, which I could sum up in one word "Blondie." I mean, sure, you have a solo career and you were also the singer in one of the classic bands of the 70s, but does it have to be one or the other? Not one Blondie song? And, honestly, I think that omission sort of cost her some audience love, seeing as every break between songs raised our hopes, only to have them dashed with a song we didn't know.
Oh, I left out a crucial piece of the puzzle. At most shows, between acts, you just sit there and watch overweight union roadies move equipment and check microphones. But at True Colors, there is no such lag. Between acts, you get Margaret Cho and special guest Rosie O'Donnell telling jokes. Margaret was her usual self, but it seemed like some people in the audience weren't familiar with her, because they seemed to find her a bit over-the-top. Since I know Margaret's material, she seemed like, well... Margaret, to me. But some women around me seemed to be a bit shocked and offended when Cho made a reference that went something like, "You know that Laura Bush's pussy tastes like Lysol." Between Erasure and Cyndi Lauper's set, Margaret and another performer had a whole 'yo mama' style rap comparing and contrasting their pussies, which was well-received by the crowd.
I love Cyndi Lauper, but had she not organized this she would have gone on before Erasure. That said, Erasure were completely phenomenal and the absolute highlight of the night. I've seen them before and enjoyed them, but there was magic in the Berkeley hills that night. For one thing, the crowd was on its feet, singing and dancing throughout their entire set. And what a set! "Sometimes," "Chains of Love," "A Little Respect," "Love To Hate You," amazing new song "I Could Fall In Love With You." The crowd couldn't get enough, and Andy Bell did his flamboyant best to keep the enraptured masses on our feet, singing, smiling, and dancing. By the time they closed with "Oh L'Amour," it seemed the crowd was singing at the top of its lungs and just having a blast.
Cyndi came out last and was in fine voice, but compared to Erasure, the catalog is a bit thinner. She was still a complete delight, but a bit anticlimactic after Andy and Vince. Rosie O'Donnell also joined Cyndi onstage to play her own drum kit on the side of the stage. "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," "She Bop," "Good Enough," a cover of "When You Were Mine," and, strangely, no "Time After Time."
Then, all of the performers joined Cyndi onstage for a cover of ABBA's "Take A Chance On Me," as giant multi-colored balloons were thrown into the crowd, before singing the namesake song for the tour, "True Colors."
While the show happened a few days after the Pride festivities in San Francisco, it really seemed to encapsulate the same positive energy, community spirit, and great music -- uniting us all for the second time that week.