January is often bleak. The festivities are over. Your belly, liver and soul are all crying out for respite and sooner rather than later the credit card bill will hit the floor letting you know that none of the joy was free.
2022 is a particularly tough one. We’re headed into the second year of a pandemic we were told would last 3 weeks. We’re realising that while we were sitting alone at home unable to fulfil our very real need for social contact that our elected ‘leadership’ were supping wine with 100 of their closest cronies in the Downing Street back garden. All this while we were saying final goodbyes to people we love via iPad or zoom funerals. And to top that all off… Betty White only went and fucking died. At least we still have Dolly, huh?
Regardless of where we land in our political disdain, the last couple of years have truly made us all want to scream into the void from time to time. It’s only natural. The world changed and we weren’t asked if we wanted to tag along. We were just swept along with the tide, and here we are in a crumpled heap picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves down before navigating the next obstacle that Miss Rona throws at us like a drunk Drag Queen in Soho in need of attention.
For most of us in the west, January signifies a new year, and with it an opportunity for renewal. For many that involves cutting out the booze, eating healthy and exercising more, but how many of us are using the free tools at our disposal to improve our mental health?
For centuries art has been fundamental in moderating our mood. Be it a night at the opera, escaping into a great photograph or sitting in a darkened room for hours watching Sarah Jessica Parker buy shoes and bitch about men, the truth is that escapism through arts is as essential to a balanced mind. Almost as important as 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day is to a balanced diet. It’s a universal truth. Exposure to high calibre culture experiences nourishes your soul. Heck, we can even agree that for some this could be applied to going to the footie.
For us at Civil Disobedience, it’s music. Always has been. Always will be. That’s why we’re so obsessed with Aidan Sadler, and their show Tropicana. It’s chock-full of synth pop classics from the 80s, each and every one with a special place in Aidan’s heart.
"I've always had an affinity with the New Wave movement of the late 1970's/1980's. The music that movement produced is moody, sexual, expressive. And to sing they're a treat. Belty vocals, dramatic spoken word. Ridiculous, but perfect".
- Aidan Sadler
💙 Blue Monday - New Order
I decided to have an almost overture introduction at the top of the show to get audiences hyped and allow an actual "right, this is about to start" moment for the team. This had to be the hammering drumline of Blue Monday by New Order. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out a way to integrate the song into the rest of the show, as the only correct version is the 7-minute long mix.
✊ Love & Pride - King
The hardest decision I had to make with this show was the song to open it. I wanted something powerful, belty, in-your-face! Love & Pride is truly one of those songs that fell off the map as Paul King only really had the one hit, yet it's so bloody good. And it's a super fun song to perform as well. High highs, low lows and the ending that practically acts as a vocal warmup to get me in the zone for the rest of the show (but don't tell anyone that). I also mix some lyrics from "Blue Monday '' into the bridge of this to scratch the itch people may have had from hearing the overture.
🥇 Gold - Spandau Ballet
I've been singing this song since I was 15, I'm so fond of the vocal melodies in this track. It's so instantly recognisable, slightly camp. Somewhat silly? An oddly masculine cult following?! But looking back on the New Wave Movement that was it was all about. Flamboyance, gender bending, bliss. The song’s vocals almost have an operatic quality. Vincero Vincero Vincero, anybody???
😻 Look of Love - ABC
This song had to be in the show for the opening falsetto line alone. I was arguing between this track and "Poison Arrow" pretty much up to 2 weeks before the show opened last year, but I'm glad I picked this one. Lexicon of Love is such a strong album. Fun fact - in the actual song Martin (Fry, not Kemp) sings a line "when your girl has left you out on the pavement" and you can hear a woman say "goodbye". That was actually his ex! Oh! This song also allows me to take a drink half way through, which I very much appreciate.
👼 Don't You Want Me Baby - Human League
This is one of those songs where I want so badly to be in the music video - and you can definitely tell when I'm on stage. Unfortunately Phil Oakley recorded the vocals for this song in the bog, the one thing I'm not sure I can recreate. This is the only part of the show where I'm not on stage!
😘 Take on Me - A-Ha
This is my "mid show" let's go crazy number, it's secretly the bit of the show where I get all my pent up adrenaline out and run riot in whatever space I'm performing it in. It's had a recent resurgence in memes so I thought it would only be suitable to have this gem in! Also it's always great hearing the audience trying to hit that high note. We had an acapella group in the front row once and they even threw some harmonies in. No pressure, though.
🩰 To Cut A Long Story Short - Spandau Ballet
Their first single! Quite a bit more of an obscure Spandau song, this track is another one that was very present in my formative years. We come out of talking about war to get here so it only feels suitable to throw some angry twists and turns in. The walking synth riff of this song follows me around wherever I go. I actually think that's the BPM I walk in.
🌴 Club Tropicana - WHAM!
Oh, I obviously save the title song till' last, because that's what we've all been waiting for - right? I actually remember many, many, many years ago when I started the "leap" into a singing career this song would get me through those anxious nights. It's a glamorous visit to an exclusive club in the 80's. It's fun, camp and makes people think of summer (even in the cold winter months). Audio margarita. Also allows me to use the "disco" setting on lighting rigs.
So there we have it, a whistle stop tour of the Tropicana set-list. You can listen to the originals in Aidan’s Spotify playlist and of course, if you’re looking for that cultural pick-me-up as we head into the third week of January, you can come to the show.
TROPICANA plays The Kings Head Theatre 19-29 January. Tickets can be bought here.