REVIEW: Throwback 80s Festival at Sea Human League OMD Navigator of the Seas | Music | Entertainment


OMD Throwback Cruise (Image: Floating Festivals)

It could have been funny. Hell, it was funny. But the fact that the irony was entirely lost on this over-larded lost soul, complete with pink day-glo leg warmers, did not bode well. The 80s was always a decade best viewed through the prism of irony and it suddenly felt like this was going to be a long, long weekend. I was in a large booking hall waiting to embark the impressively imposing cruise ship Navigator of the Seas for a taste of Floating Festivals’ “Throwback – the 80s Festival at Sea”.

I had been promised three nights of classic 80s memorabilia – and performances by big-name acts including the Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Erasure’s Andy Bell and Captain Sensible. 

I’d always been wary of acts which need to put the name of the band before the artist – it seemed like something from my mum’s generation, and seriously if you didn’t clock who Andy Bell was in the 1980s then you really weren’t paying attention – but by any measure it was an impressive enough line up of names. 

And I imagined it would be interesting to see which 80s poppets had returned to their careers as plasterers and hod-carriers after their 15 minutes in the TOTP limelight – and indeed whether they should have stayed there.

In truth, scrolling down the weekend itinerary my eye was drawn less by the big names and more by the 80s flotsam and jetsam, big-haired DJ Pat Sharpe… a puzzle how he was ever so popular at the time and complete bloody mystery as to how he is still around 30 years later. 

festival cruising entertainment

Entertainment Director James Ibrahim (Image: Floating Festivals)

Then there was poor old Chesney Hawkes – a man who has no-doubt led a rich and full life, and yet to the entire planet he remains the boyish singer of that unimaginative slice of lukewarm pop mediocrity that was The One and Only – still hilariously of course his one and only hit. 

Then of course pop’s very own Dr Jeckyl, Jason Donovan. From clean-cut boy-next-door mummies’ favourite to a drug-riddled, demon-plagued husk in about half a dozen singles and an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical.

Then there was the lightly-talented oddball Eurovision scouser Sonia.. a woman who always gave the appearance of a rabbit caught in headlights, a rabbit who would have perfectly happy to be flattened under the wheels of a Mack truck, if only someone would end it.  


The 80s was always a decade best viewed through the prism of irony (Image: Floating Festivals)

jason festival

Jason Donovan (Image: Floating Festivals)

How would this lot have fared over the intervening three decades? 

With varying degrees of success it turned out. 

First let’s do the big boys and girls. 

The Human League were unexpectedly brilliant. Phil Oakey can come across as a touch too self-regarding but let’s be fair before the HL became your sister’s band with the release of Don’t You Want Me and DARE this Sheffield pop combo were doing things with synthesisers no-one had ever done before.

festival cruise

Throw yourself into it 100% (Image:  Floating Festivals)

And pop gems like Sound of the Crowd, Things That Dreams are Made Of, which were a bit overshadowed at the time sound fresh and contemporary as anything on Spotify.

Not far behind were OMD. Overlooking the dad-dancing (to be fair OMD never went out of their way to do cool) they were tight, funny, self-aware and at times, despite there only being two of them, huge.

And again the big crowd-pleasers Maid of Orleans and especially Enola Gay were big powerful slices of 80s bombast which seemed as relevant today as they did 30 years ago. Perhaps moreso.

Then there were the not-so-fabulous moments – which in a way were even more memorable.

music festival

Music performances included big names (Image: Floating Festivals)

Jason, god love him, was terrible.

It may have been an off-night but good grief!

His off-key delivery of Jase classics however did not seem to phase the knicker-throwing fan-club one jot. For this lot of devotees it will always be a sunny day in Erinborough in 1982.

Then there was Bobby Davro. This is not however the clean-cut, butter-wouldn’t-melt Bobby Davro of prime time TV game shows – this is Davro 2.0 the foul-mouthed, slightly creepy, MC of something called Adult Bingo.

Fortunately I was distracted by the arrival of Captain Sensible on a smaller stage and took my leave before things got too icky.

festival boat

There may be a Punk floating festival and even a Goth floating festival in 2019 (Image: Floating Festivals)

festival davos

Once the cynicism drops, you begin to realise you’re enjoying yourself (Image: Floating Festivals)

Now, Sensible afloat had clearly been milking the “Captain” aspect of his stage persona (and indeed his Happy Talk No1) all day – but on stage after duly dispensing with the South Pacific oddity he got down to business with a few Damned classics and frankly stole the weekend.

And then there was beer. Lots and lots of beer.

You’re on a boat hundreds of miles out in the North Sea. You want a Stella at 5.30am? Feel free.

Tequila sunrise for brekkie? No problem. Your every booze option is catered for.

captain sensible

Sensible afloat had clearly been milking the “Captain” aspect of his stage persona (Image: Floating Festivals)

Then there are the tribute bands.

There are lots of tribute bands. And, thanks perhaps at least in part to the tequila sunrise livener (see above) they somehow sound significantly better than the real thing.

And, slowly but surely, the cynicism drops away and you begin to realise you’re enjoying yourself.

festival crowd

Join the three-night roundtrip from Southampton (Image: Floating Festivals)

And that’s the thing – it’s like going to a theme park – the only way to enjoy it is to throw yourself into it 100%, otherwise you might as well not bother. 

I hear there may be a Punk floating festival and even a Goth floating festival in 2019.

I’m already signing up.

Throwback 2019 runs 11-14 October

Join Three-night roundtrip from Southampton onboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas visiting Le Havre


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