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Tuesday 20th June. Review: Greg Phillips. Photos: Jason Rosewarne

If you were within earshot of a radio in the 80s, you wouldn’t have escaped the feel-good hits of British recording phenomenon Billy Ocean. Turn on the TV and you couldn’t avoid iconic videos such as When The Going Gets Tough (from the soundtrack of the movie Jewel of the Nile and featuring Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and  Kathleen Turner as backing singers) on MTV or ABC’s Countdown. At the Palais Theatre on a cold Melbourne Tuesday night, Billy Ocean was back in town to deliver his multiple hits live. In a lovely touch of nostalgia, they even brought in Countdown’s original announcer Gavin Wood to welcome Billy to the stage.

Featuring a nine piece band, Billy opened with the reggae beats of One World, the title track from his current album. It was apparent from the start that this loyal audience had come prepared to have a fun time no matter what. The next song, arguably his biggest hit Love Really Hurts gave them the opportunity to cut loose, dance and sing at the top of their lungs. Not wanting to peak too early, Ocean took it down a notch with consecutive ballads Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) and There’ll Be Sad Songs, revealing that he’d lost none of his soulful vocal power.

The band applied a mellifluous touch to the music rather than a driving rock approach. They are clearly musicians of the highest calibre. Drummer Perry Melius played delicately and thoughtfully behind his kit. Guitarists Stanley Andrew and Sonia Donate on guitars and Orefo Orakwue on bass added colour and texture, rather than screaming riffs, while Jonathon Beckford offered a palette of authentic 80’s keyboard tones. For this band, it was all about the collective sound more than individual flourishes. Sax player David Baptiste did enjoy his turn in the spotlight with some wailing notes, particularly on Colour of Love from Billy’s 1988 album Tear Down These Walls. Backing singers Cherie Charles (Billy’s daughter), Donna Gardier and Wayne Hernandez completed the delightful aural picture.

Bob Marley’s ’No Woman, No Cry’ paid homage to Billy’s Caribbean roots and provided another opportunity for the audience to sing along enthusiastically. Suddenly, Ocean’s most successful ballad began the hit-laden run home. Loverboy and Going Gets Tough followed and these ardent fans were up out of their seats and filling the aisles. At this point the venue ushers gave in to the vibe and allowed the spirited party to proceed without interference. As the band launched into a latin-flavoured jam, Billy acknowledged each of the musicians on stage before bringing it all home with his mega-hit ’Caribbean Queen’, ending a night of uplifting fun and a trip down memory lane for this happy, predominantly MTV-age audience.

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