A review and confession from Funkatopia founder Mr. Christopher;
Time to come clean. If it wasn’t already evident by the piece I did five years ago, I am a huge fan of The Fixx. I am indeed what they call a Fixxture. It’s difficult to be too involved in their career as of late because there’s not much going on considering their last release was 2012’s amazingly under-appreciated and under-valued Beautiful Friction along with sparse touring.
And some are saying, “Wait. Why are you giving so much love to a band that’s not funk?” But I covered this before. They are funky. The bass lines and riffs are sick and even if you don’t accept that, every funk artist is over the moon about other non-funk artists. Prince had his Joni Mitchell. Nile Rodgers loved his David Bowie. Mr. Christopher has The Fixx.
I know you’re here to read a concert review, and if you are, just scroll down to the sub-header that says Concert Review because I’m going to geek out for some paragraphs about my history with The Fixx and why this funk fanatic got so wrapped into these guys in the first place.
I, like most people my age, were introduced to The Fixx via MTV‘s early days when their songs Stand Or Fall and Red Skies came on multiple times a day back when MTV only had a handful of videos to even play. I loved them, but I hadn’t bit the bullet on actually buying their first album Shuttered Room. It wasn’t until Reach The Beach, their second album, that gave them monster hits like One Thing Leads To Another, Saved By Zero and Sign of Fire that I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the store to begin my obsession.
Once I was brain deep into the masterpiece that was Reach The Beach, I had to have everything that they ever released including imports, remixes, 45’s and otherwise. I even remember getting the 12″ version of Saved By Zero that had written on the back, “From their forthcoming album Reach the Beach” and I lost my mind. I said, “They have FOUR albums?!”
I wasn’t officially embarrassed until I looked up the word forthcoming. Give me a break. I was all of 14 at the time. Still funny though.
To make the obsession worse, I was attending Northside School of The Performing Arts in Atlanta in 1983 and someone gave the school a huge stack of tickets to go see a concert at the Omni in downtown Atlanta featuring The Fixx on their Reach The Beach tour (their biggest selling album ever) opening up for The Police who were on their Synchronicity tour (their biggest selling album ever.) However, I missed the handout period for my class and so I faked an injury to get a hall pass to go and get one anyway. The show was magic and while I loved The Police, by the time The Fixx left the stage, I couldn’t get over the buzz I felt from their performance.
Fast forward many Fixx concerts later to around 1991 when The Fixx was touring in support of their album Ink. They were appearing on a local radio station to promote the album and the show at Center Stage in downtown Atlanta. It was my first true starstruck spaz out moment, when I managed to get through and was able to talk to The Fixx on air while I stammered over my words and almost pissed myself. I was praising the album for the masterpiece it was and then a magic moment occurred when the DJ asked what song I wanted to hear from the album, and in frantic mode I screamed “SHUT IT OUT!”
The band was excited that there was a true hardcore fan on the line requesting a song not ordained from the label and I was excited that I got to call the shot on a major radio station on my chosen track. I was yammering on relentlessly off air to them while the song was playing, “Thank you so much for playing that song. It will be the best thing that’s happened for them and if people hear this song, it will put them back on the map. It’s perfect.” and more embarrassingly breathless, fanatic rambling.
The band was obviously appreciative of my fanaticism and while off air, lead singer Cy Curnin asked me to make sure that I was front row that night and guitarist Jamie West-Oram asked if I wanted to come to the after-party. Um, of course and yes. I was 23 at the time, but I might as well have been a giddy 14 year old the way I was handling myself.
I got to the show early and of course, front row and beaming. The show started and as Cy Curnin came on stage, I yelled “SHUT IT OUT!” and he came over and slapped me five. My night was officially set at that point. It didn’t even matter if a concert happened. Lucky for me it did and the show was this side of inspiring and full of energy. Pure musical heaven.
Then after the show, I immediately went to the venue where the “after party” would be happening and reality struck as my name was not at the door to get into the event. I sat in disbelief. I should be happy that I got as much attention as I already had. There was plenty of greatness for one evening anyway, but I still stood a bit distraught at the door and after a few minutes I had decided that that was all the evening had in store and to walk away and just be thankful.
I turned to leave and then from around the corner comes running the guitarist Jamie West-Oram who locked eye contact with me, brightly smiled and yelled, “Chris! I was looking for you.” He then grabbed my arm, walked me to the door and announces to the doorman, “It’s okay. He’s with me.” and to the after party I went.
Needless to say, the remainder of the evening was a 23 year old Mr. Christopher in the most nirvana of places blathering directly to the band and anyone who would listen about how great they were, sitting at the bar with drummer Adam Woods tossing back drinks, and just enjoying the opportunity to hang out with one of my favorite bands of all time.
Over the years, I’ve seen The Fixx many more times than I could count. They have one fantastic album after another and a multitude of material to pull from, but they’re not an easy band to talk about to friends and co-workers, because no one remembers them. You’re lucky if you can get them to remember One Thing Leads To Another without the need to sing a few bars first. So at the risk of just seeming out of touch or stuck in a time warp, you just relish the fact that you get the privilege to enjoy a fantastic band that everyone else has just missed the boat on.
However, their music is more relevant now than it was even back when it was made. I can’t think of one single album that The Fixx has made that was weak or uninspired. Every album was breathtaking. Even the two albums that I thought I didn’t like that were released in this century have slowly begun to grow on me. It’s amazing how impeccable their material is even to this day.
So if somewhere I have peaked your interest into checking them out, I’ve put together a handpicked playlist of some of my favorite songs that was a bit painstaking because there were a lot of amazing songs that Spotify did not supply such as the Elemental album, their debut album Shuttered Room, the amazing acoustic album 1011 Woodland, and some other deeper cuts like The Fool that just have to be experienced. I even started it off with Shut It Out so that you could understand what I was so excited about back in the day.
And now we fast forward over 25 years later to their Atlanta show at the City Winery on August 17, 2017. The show is sold out and luckily as I arrive in the parking lot, out walks Jamie West-Oram from a Binders store with a coffee. The same man who a quarter of a century ago changed my life.
I said hello, calling him by name and he seemed surprised that anyone recognized him. He didn’t recognize me (25 years and 80 pounds later) and I started into my story I told you above. One minute in, I realized there was no facial expression from him to indicate he remembered any of the story, so I left it alone. So is the life of a rock star who meets thousands of people every year. But that’s okay. I got a pic and it means a lot to me and that’s what matters.
I was lucky enough to score a front row seat to this show, albeit behind keyboardist extraordinaire Rupert Greenall, which is a treat in itself to watch him work. I also managed to capture a lot on camera for you to enjoy on AtlantaMusicMarketing.com and they’ll be coming soon. The intimate stage lighting is horrendous in City Winery for photography.
It seems that this time around, The Fixx was fully aware that the people attending this sold out performance were true fans. Even from the vibe felt in the room, it was immediately evident that everyone in attendance were actual fans who had their lives touched at some point by this band. You could see the smiles, the attentiveness, the appreciation, and the sing-alongs happening on lesser known songs.
The evening began with a keyboard intro started from the board and out walks keyboardist Rupert Greenall, bassist Dan K. Brown, and drummer Adam Woods. A little shocking that they walked out in reverent silence as the crowd seemed to just take it all in. Then you could feel the wave of applause begin to fill the room like the holy spirit that slowly came to a roar as guitarist Jamie West-Oram walked out, followed shortly after by lead singer Cy Curnin.
It became clear that tonight was for the fans as they opened with a track from Reach The Beach called Privilege. The way they integrated their hits throughout the night was refreshing. No waiting until the very end of the night to wad them all of them in hopes of an encore. It would be a great emotional song, a hit, more deep tracks, a hit, some chatter about the state of the world, a deep track, a hit, and essentially a never-ending roller coaster of great selections.
While gone were the 80’s Cy Curnin that would strip off his clothes and paint himself and Jamie West-Oram‘s raucous guitar swings, the intensity was still there and seemingly more important than ever. The passion and realization that the content of the music was more meaningful now than it was back when it was written.
Cy Curnin was always a politically charged and stout vocalist that spoke out on injustice and he did so with a fervor. Back in the 80’s, they had released a hard to find promo called Talkabout where he delved into the meaning of each song on their album called Walkabout. At the time, it made little to no sense and as he described the tracks, the confusion just got worse. It was like listening to the ramblings of a mad man. And even Cy would probably tell you it was. His passion was never misdirected, but it was so overwhelming that it just came out in bulk thoughts. His knowledge was simply so massive, that it couldn’t be digested in small key points.
Tonight, he spent time to briefly put songs in context in this almost living room style show which was in stark contrast to their Germany shows where there was no seating and people were there were to take it all in, yelling and sloshing their beers in a raucous display. This crowd here was calm, reverent and attentive. That nuance wasn’t lost on the band as they realized that they could spend time crafting the songs and painting the picture instead of the need to make sure that the evening was a freight train of entertainment.
Tonight, the crowd stayed glued and there weren’t any wasted moments. But there was an analytical aura happening at City Winery as if people were waiting for information. As if they were watching a news broadcast as they were reeling from the tragedies of Charlottesville, Barcelona, Russia, and the political climate and just wanted answers. Needed answers. Here’s your soapbox. Please take it. This is your forte.
Cy refrained from saying too much because in today’s world, you never know where your audience falls and The Fixx has always ridden the line and somehow managed to be pragmatic, but still in your face at the same time. And looking over the faces of this audience and all of the years that had worn on them, it was near impossible to tell where that line was. But one thing was clear, they were scattered on both sides like a deck of cards thrown into the air. It was probably why most of the banter was kept to a minimum. Everything that needed to be said was already written into the lyrics of these great songs over the decades.
Whether Cy was gripping the microphone singing his heart out with his hand gestures, Jamie was swinging the guitar, Dan and Adam were managing the bottom end, or Rupert was there creating all of those fantastic sounds and vocal effects from behind his keyboards, the message was clear. Calm yourselves and loosen your grip. Just take it in and let music heal you.
While the early Cy would have been pro-activism, the Cy here tonight even mentioned from the stage that he wishes he could just forget all of the madness he learned over the years. There comes a time when you just know too much to the point where it just becomes ineffective to share it all. You become disenchanted with the realization that you are never going to be able to accurately communicate what you know to get people to your level. It’s okay. He did a hell of a job.
I can’t begin to describe how healing this show was for me and everyone there. If they make it to your town, it’s worth a visit and to treat yourself with a break. I know it’s not funk, but neither is most of Prince‘s music and that’s what makes this great.
Here are a couple of clips from the show to enjoy, a few photos, a link to the Spotify playlist above for those who want a handpicked musical journey from your truly, and then I’ll top it off with my apologies of this super long post.
The Fixx are very cathartic to my existence and it still speaks to me as I know it will for you as well.