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Live Review: Belinda Carlisle, Pseudo Echo

15 March 2016 | 11:34 am | Cyclone Wehner

"Renowned for her tremulous vocals, she engages in minimal banter, instead focusing on her extensive 'greatest hits'."

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Melbourne may have been buzzing about Madonna, but another '80s pop queen is in town. California's Belinda Carlisle fronted the pioneering New Wave girl band The Go-Go's before enjoying a glorious solo run with such iridescent songs as the US #1 Heaven Is A Place On Earth. A regular visitor to Australia, she's headlining the sold out final night of this season's Melbourne Zoo Twilights series — a fundraiser for the Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Carlisle's "special guests" are Melbourne synth-popsters Pseudo Echo, our counterpart to New Romantic idols Duran Duran. Tonight loquacious frontman Brian Canham is unrecognisable with his bald head and hermit beard. His band launch with a recent number, 2014's Ultraviolet, but soon venture back into their catalogue. Canham recalls performing 1983's debut Listening on Countdown. Lastly, we hear that infamous guitar-heavy rendition of Lipps Inc's disco Funkytown. Canham prompts the family-dominated audience to rise from their picnic rugs to dance. The set's surprise? A pristine cover of Real Life's Send Me An Angel.

Nowadays Belinda Carlisle is content to be a 'heritage' act — something that rebel heart Madonna is defying. Nonetheless, starting with 1987's second album, Heaven On Earth, Carlisle teamed with songwriter/producer Rick Nowels, creating dramatic modern pop. Lately, Nowels has experienced an astonishing career reinvention as Lana Del Rey's chief cohort, deconstructing Carlisle's mode of Hollywood romance. Consider Carlisle 'cool' again.

Carlisle breathlessly opens with Runaway Horses, from 1989's album of the same title. She's accompanied by an adept six-piece band, including backing singer. Awesomely, Carlisle plays tambourine. Renowned for her tremulous vocals, she engages in minimal banter, instead focusing on her extensive 'greatest hits'. One of Carlisle's last arrives early — a mid-'90s remake of New Zealander Jenny Morris' In Too Deep. Yet her best material comes from the '80s. Circle In The Sand verges on the Balearic with acoustic guitar and percussion. By La Luna, Carlisle's voice has warmed. She glides into an exquisite Summer Rain. Carlisle tells how she formed The Go-Go's in the late '70s, electing to sing over playing drums. This leads into a blithe medley of the group's iconic pop-punk Our Lips Are Sealed (co-penned by The Specials' Terry Hall!) and We Got The Beat.

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Carlisle has innumerable classics that might serve as the perfect finale — Big Scary Animal, off 1993's Nowels-free Real, is particularly cute. However, Carlisle wisely reserves her signature for the official encore — and it's Heaven Is A Place On Earth.