I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in America who is actually a fan of Men Without Hats. Other than the enduring “Safety Dance” most people don’t know any of their other songs, which is a shame, because they wrote some really good synth pop in the 80s before writing a grunge album (Sideways) and breaking up in the 90s. The 2011 version of the recently re-activated band consists of sole original member and chief songwriter Ivan Doroschuk backed by hired musicians, none of whom is a drummer unfortunately. I’ve read (by which I mean I looked at the Wikipedia page), that Doroschuk’s brother Stefan, in essence the other original member of MWH, disapproves of the current incarnation of the band in typical rock n roll fashion. I agree the lineup is a bit weak with only a single original member, but when you’re into a band that’s this old, you gotta take what you can get or get nothing at all. A live drummer would be nice, but apparently when Men Without Hats started out they didn’t have a drummer, so I guess this could be considered “keeping it real”.
This show took place at the Best Buy Theater in Time Sqaure. I hate this place. It used to be called the Nokia Theater, but now it’s Best Buy, and who knows what company it will be named after in 2 years. There is a lack of quality recording positions and I always get a lot of chatter whenever I record here, despite going to great lengths to minimize the damage. And not to mention the mobs of tourists that need to be navigated just to get to the place. This was the last stop of Human League’s headline tour with Men Without Hats in the opening slot, so MWH’s set was relatively short. For what it’s worth, the performance itself was a lot of fun. Ivan’s stage presence defied his age. He constantly ran back and forth across the stage dancing, his voice was strong, and he seemed to be having a genuinely good time up there.
The set opened with the surprisingly good new song “This War.” This song sounds like it was written in 1982, and fit in perfectly with MWH’s older material. After that, the band just kept hitting me with songs I wanted to hear, mostly off of their debut album (the one with “Safety Dance”). Here I’ve included the last 3 songs from the set:
“Living in China” is one of my favorite Men Without Hats songs. When I hear it, it makes me want to stand in place and pump my fists back and forth in a motion akin to power walking, but with my fists moving in time with the music and without all the legwork. I also like to change the lyrics to this song as “Living Vagina” when I sing it to myself because it makes me giggle. People on the subway think I’m crazy when I do this.
I included “Safety Dance” here just because everyone knows it, and who wouldn’t be curious to hear the 2011 live version of it for free? I knew before I went into this show that recording of the actual song was fucked. Once the intro started, the entire crowd took the opportunity to break out of their relative indifference to relentlessly “woooo!” for the duration of the song. Can’t say I blame them, if I wasn’t trying to make a decent recording out of the show, I would’ve been pretty hammered and “woo-ing” like a motherfucker too. Just think of this version as the “Safety Dance (Now with 110% More Woo-ing Remix)”. Also, if you listen carefully, there’s also a group of people in the crowd chanting “what! what! what!” in time to the music around the 2:45 mark. I thought that was pretty funny.
Corporate Sponsored Theater (currently Best Buy) in Times Square 09/24/11
I Got the Message
Ideas for Walls
Pop Goes the World
Living in China
Where Do the Boys Go?
Download: Men Without Hats – Safety Dance (Live)