While investigating start times on Trak's website, we stumble upon the deal of the century: you can purchase East 17 meet and greet passes for a remarkably low $20 upon arrival! SO worth it for a new FB profile pic!
After excitedly approaching a security guard who mans the velvet rope, we are immediately directed to the back of the queue. All must have their ID scanned, which makes us feel as if we're in Walthamstow: the London borough with a postcode made famous by tonight's headliners. This venue is lush and all who swan down the stairs feel like VIPs. Once the main doors are opened, the timewarp tunes pump from the state of the art sound system. DJ Ben G distinguishes himself behind the ones and twos with choice selections that include Jumpin' Jumpin' by Destiny's Child, Aaliyah's Try Again and Pony by Ginuwine. Sensational cuts to worm/dance your way down toward prime real estate.
As we place our bets about East 17's opener, a nearby random insists he has no doubt it'll be House Of Love. No equipment is being set up onstage and so a soundsystem set is what we expect. Boom. “Everybody/Everybody in the house of love/One love/One god…” Look back to exchange knowing look with aforementioned random and we're off! The joy you feel while pogoing to this song, singing along with your arm around your mate, cannot be underestimated. This is followed, straight up, by the relentless techno beast that is Let It Rain. Main man Tony Mortimer still looks dashing in his typical geezer ensemble of multicoloured, long-sleeved checked shirt. We knew there would be no Brian Harvey onstage, but miss him during Deep because there's inadequate emphasis on the “So rest upon my chest” bit, which Mortimer originally performed – so what gives? Latest single I Can't Get You Off My Mind (Crazy), the first evidence of East 17 in this very trio manifestation, would be a hit if covered by One Direction, but the lyrics are hard to swallow when delivered by middle-agers: “I just can't get you off my mind/You're drivin' me crazy.”
“We ain't been here since '94,” says the one in the turquoise t-shirt advertising South Miami Beach (Terry Coldwell) and there's a feeling of gawking at this threesome from a safe distance – inside a glass enclosure at Trak zoo? “They don't quite get the screams they used to in their day, do they?” my plus one observes. In front of stage left turns out to be the way to go in terms of primo posi, 'cause the bald one (John Hendy) looks a little creepy these days. Why is it always the one you don't wanna shake hands with who constantly reaches out into the crowd (after grabbing his crotch)? Mortimer plays air piano and there's a hilarious recurring motif when introducing songs, “Who remembers this one?” We remember them all (except those lifted from their recent Dark Light album). All three of them look ecstatic to still have performance privileges, but also a little self-conscious like an assortment of uncles asked to perform while the family digests Christmas lunch.
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There's certainly demand for an encore, but they return to the stage in two seconds flat – hardly enough time for a swig of water. “Who remembers this one?” And in comes Stay Another Day (pretty sure this isn't the Christmas version with the church bells, though). Memories of roughing it in London come flooding back and although we belt out “STAY NOW!” in the correct places, these are sadly omitted from the stage. Sensitive piano trills and a gently building verse sustain the poignant mood. Temporarily. Then it drops: “Alri-ight/Alri-ight/Everything is gonna be alri-ight!” The atmosphere sizzles. It's an uprising.
Minus Harvey and devoid of stupid hats, East 17 have still got it. Sadly, the lengthy meet and greet queue sees my companion bow out of a golden profile pic opportunity and this ain't no solo mission. So it doesn't happen. Come on promoters, we've seen their street urchin once-were rivals, now bring out Take That already!