05 September 2019

These Hallowed Grounds: The Fixx live at the Troubadour

Situated at the border between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, the famous Troubadour nightclub has hosted a multitude of artists representing various genres for over sixty years, establishing itself as an iconic location in the heart of the music industry.  During a career that spans nearly four decades, The Fixx have entertained audiences with a dynamic blend of new wave and art rock, carving out a small but effective niche in the crowded music scene.  It only seemed fitting that the band would grace the historic stage, and I was lucky to be there!

I had seen The Fixx live on two previous occasions: in 2008, as the supporting act on the “Rockin’ the Colonies” tour with The Alarm and The English Beat; and again in 2013, as one of several artists included on a Jack-FM package show.  In both instances, the band was limited to less than ten songs or so, playing to a crowd that may or may not have feigned interest.  It was a real shame for me, as I had grown up listening to them and became an even bigger fan after picking up their terrific Ultimate Collection greatest hits album just before that first concert.

The Fixx has toured consistently over the years, so I was always hopeful of seeing them headline at a smaller venue - thankfully, I caught wind of their Troubadour show just in time to buy a ticket!   They were in the midst of a brief “End of Summer Tour”, and after reading the setlists from the first shows, I knew I had to be there to see them play some of their deeper cuts.   Their set also included six songs from an album I’d never heard - 1988’s Calm Animals - so I made sure to familiarize myself with those tracks by the day of the show.

"These Hallowed Grounds"

As the lights dropped at the legendary club, the band ambled to the stage amidst the roar of the appreciative sold-out crowd, and immediately launched into the title track from Calm Animals.  They followed with one of my favorite songs - “Lost Planes”, their very first single from 1981 - a track whose appearance on the setlist was one of my main reasons for attending the show altogether.  Lead singer Cy Curnin humbly addressed the audience by saying, “It’s great to be here...on these hallowed grounds”, as the band continued on with their impressive performance.

Now into their 60’s, the band still looked absolutely energetic.  In addition to Curnin’s powerful voice, the thick bass lines from Dan K. Brown laid a foundation for guitarist Jamie West-Oram to deliver blazing guitar riffs instantly recognizable by the adoring fans.  The Fixx is a TIGHT unit of talented musicians, clearly displaying the chemistry of having played together for so long. They deserved their spot on this stage, and owned it with full authority.

"Who are we, if we are not ourselves?"

Questions such as this - posed by Cy Curnin to the audience, in reference to their 1984 hit song “Are We Ourselves?” - have always been at the core of The Fixx’s music.  From their modest beginnings in London, the band has been recognized for crafting intelligent hook-laden songs with acute lyrical observations.  The staccato delivery of both the words and music helped them to stand out in the new wave scene, and gain a level of respect that has followed them over the course of their career.  They push boundaries, provoke thought, and make the listener question what is around them.

I was particularly drawn to this lyric from 1988’s “Driven Out”: “I’m cooking with microwaves / To warm up food that’s not seen the soil”.  It’s simple on the surface, yet it makes one wonder about their place in the grand scheme of this planet.  In fact, I found myself internally reflecting as they performed the song itself, which I don’t often do at concerts - as their set continued, I couldn’t help but ponder my organic surroundings during “I’m Life”, or question the futility of war while singing along to “Stand or Fall”.   This band was making me think in the middle of a show, and it was tremendous!

"Is the choir ready?"

As mentioned, I found myself singing along quite often during the show, which was seemingly encouraged by the band as Cy was constantly turning his microphone to the audience to amplify the crowd noise.  By the time they broke into their biggest hit, “One Thing Leads to Another”, the fans had formed a duet with the singer throughout the chorus, much to his delight.  The trend would follow during “Deeper and Deeper”, as Cy continually asked “Where do we go?”, so we could all answer, “DEEPER!”

For the final song of the main set, the gracious lead singer addressed the energetic fans: “Is the choir ready?”, which was met with thunderous applause.  This led straight into “Red Skies”, one of the band’s earliest hits, which formed a perfect call-and-response moment for everyone in the room.  The studio recording of the song features echoing during the chorus, which gave the fans the chance to be the echo themselves, returning Cy’s phrases back to him in immediate fashion.   It was easily the highlight of the night, and one of my favorite moments ever from a concert.

"Can you feel the love in the room?"

As the band returned to the stage for the encore, it was obvious that they were both satisfied and overwhelmed by the devotion of their followers.  Cy would go on to play keyboards while singing the ballad, “I Will”, before taking one last moment to speak passionately to the audience as they prepared their last song of the night.  He quietly looked around every inch of the venue, then humbly asked “Can you feel the love in the room?” - an emotion which was clearly present and willfully displayed throughout the evening.  They closed with the thoughtful “Secret Separation”, then exited into the night as quickly as they had arrived.

While not nearly as popular as some of the bigger bands of the 1980’s, The Fixx found their place and made their mark with a handful of Top 40 hits and significant record sales.  More than 35 years later, they’re still delighting audiences around the globe, whether headlining intimate venues or slotting into “package” tours with several of their peers from the past.   I cannot stress how much fun I had at this show, so it goes without saying that I would recommend anyone to take advantage of seeing them live if given the chance - you’ll be glad you did!

The Fixx Setlist Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA, USA 2019, 2019 U.S. Tour

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