“She reminds me of comedienne Jennifer Saunders,” says my friend Chay, about the taller, blonder half of Bananarama, Sara Dallin, while we witness she and brunette gal pal Keren Woodward deliver hit after hit on the Crown Theatre stage in Perth.
I’m not sure if Chay knows this but Saunders, along with fellow funny woman Dawn French, and together with Bananarama, once enjoyed a hit single together – a cover of the Beatles’ Help! under the insane moniker of ‘Lananeeneenoonoo’ (a piss-take, naturally, on the length of the ‘Nanas name).
Indeed, Bananarama could easily fall foul of becoming a parody of themselves. Their original music is not exactly ‘up there’ in the credibility stakes with, say, Lennon and McCartney, and the covers they’ve opted to carry out are fairly obvious fare, from Really Saying Something – originally sung by doo-wop darlings, The Velvelettes, to Venus – initially delivered by ’60s hippies, Shocking Blue.
But let’s take a look at the facts to see if these girls’ are worth a mention in the record books.
They’ve been together for 35 years – well, at least the two we’re seeing tonight have shared three-decades-and-a-half on stage together. They’ve had more Top 40 hits (32 at last count) than the Spice Girls have managed; and sold over 40 million records (and that was marked in 2002). Heck, they’ve even gained entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest girl group since The Supremes. All that alone is pretty impressive stuff.
But could the duo (Siobhan Fahey did join them on stage overseas but, alas, Australia had to do without the sassy one of the group) deliver quality vocals on stage?
Perhaps what was missing this time around was more ‘action’, with Sara and Keren taking care not to jump about too much on stage, reserving their energy, seemingly, for the singing.
The short answer, yes, with Sarah and Keren knocking out hit after hit with a fine set of tonsils each. From their first Australian chart-topper, Shy Boy, through familiar favourites like Cruel Summer and Robert De Niro’s Waiting, to latter-day club fodder, Bananarama confidently delivered hits from all of their albums.
Fans in the audience appeared content to share factoids with one another about the ubiquitous group: that Keren is still married to ex-Wham! bad boy Andrew Ridgley; that Siobhan used to front indie-goth outfit Shakespears Sister (and still does the odd recording under the name); that they performed their final dates as a trio in August of last year, and so on…
What many agreed on is that perhaps what was missing this time around was more ‘action’, with Sara and Keren taking care not to jump about too much on stage, reserving their energy, seemingly, for the singing. It would have been nice to see some choreography happening up there, perhaps a cute dancing boy or three, to make up for the missing member of the group, and to keep things exciting.
Still, I’m happy I ticked this particular box on my pop cultural things-to-do list. These gals are absolute record-holders, after all. And just plain fun to see.
Photography by Chay Egan