Sheena Easton is big on style


The 1980s were a decade of big choruses and even bigger hair. The artistes who are still performing today in small to mid-size clubs are the brunt of many a bar room joke dealing with hair gel, goofy eyeliner and baggy trousers.

After all, not everyone can hang out in the Madonna or Janet Jackson club and be dubbed 1980s showbiz survivors. Without a doubt, there are also singers who are “just hanging on,” doing the Vegas circuit and milking past glories.

Still, there’s an art to “hanging on.”
Take Scottish singer Sheena Easton, who’s still singing and misspelling “Telefone” in 2005, some two decades after her commercial peak.

The evolution from 22-year-old sexy pin-up, Prince-dating, Miami Vice-starring to 45-year-old wholesome, mother-of-two can’t have been an easy one.

She is now the sweet cuddly old-friend you’ll invite over for tea and biscuits to chat about old times and bad hairstyles.

However, Easton seems to have enjoyed the metamorphosis from sexy pin-up to personable performer/mother. Yup, she is proof that pop stars can age gracefully.

On stage, she swings her childbearing hips with pride and pokes fun at herself.

“I’m an old gal,” she proclaimed, in between songs at the Genting International Showroom last weekend. Easton played the first of two live shows on April fool’s day to more than 400 people.

“People have this image of me from the 1980s and some come up to me and say, ‘You look different!’ I used to get stressed about it but I’ve realised that if they are old enough to remember those images, the chances are, they probably look different too!”

Easton is affable on stage and has a sense of humour. Gone are the sexually-charged performances associated with her 1980s commercial heyday. The new-millennium Easton is as safe as mother’s milk. She’s a singer with poise and grace, who politely entertains the crowd with generous Streisand-type banter (“Talk among yourselves,” she jokes during an awkward silence when the band begins a song a few seconds too late).

Backed by a five-piece band that included a saxophonist, Easton was charismatic enough to escape the dreaded “dinner-show entertainment” grade. First off, there weren’t umpteen-costume changes and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, she still conveyed her brand of pop convincingly enough.

After all these years, Easton still believes in the power of song. There was no sleepwalking through her songs, neither was there a “let’s just hit the notes and get it over with” attitude that you get with run-off-the-mill nostalgia acts.

Easton delivered the goods – from the sombre dewy-eyed balladry of Almost Over You to the majestic Bond theme For Your Eyes Only. And she did so with much precision and care.

Easton may not have that big Mariah/Whitney voice, but every note was clear and expressive, even when she “borrowed” songs like Aretha Franklin’s Say A Little Prayer or Bette Midler’s modern hymn, From A Distance.

Dressed in an elegant white suit throughout the show, she also dedicated the classic Stephen Sondheim composition Not While I’m Around to her children.

There was pin-drop silence when she proclaimed that the best thing about her life was being a mother, obviously touching the audience.

The two-time Grammy-award winning (she was Best New Artiste in 1982) performer also did a medley of the Prince-written Sugar Walls and duet You Got the Look (the Prince-vocals done by back-up singer Philip Ingram).

Here again, she poked fun at herself by re-enacting the “bootylicious” moves from the 1980s videos ? pouts and all.

“I get to relive my youth every night,” she joked, before launching into polite, almost tongue-in-cheek funk versions of the songs.

The big-ballad, We’ve Got Tonight was another highlight of the evening. (The Bob Seger song was a hit for her and Kenny Rogers in the 1980s; and for the benefit of you younger readers; yes it’s the same bearded dude with the Roast Chicken fast-food franchise and yes, he had a singing career before that.)

The show was a subdued and polite pleasure; with some up-tempo numbers from the 1980s to get your booty shaking (like Strut, The Lover In Me and the infectious Morning Train).

Easton sang and chatted with the audience for over an hour and climaxed with the encore – the bubbly synth-pop of Telefone.

Sheena Easton live was not a take-no-prisoners, “Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am” experience. It was more of an evening of song than a thrill-packed power-pop show.

The show left you with a pleasant after taste: Easton had exhibited style and class...and she did it without the hair gel.