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Review: Children of the 80s ft. Soul II Soul + Vengaboys at Hard Rock Hotel, 9th August

They flew in on the Vengaways and changed our lives forever.

Bouncing jovially to the persistently perky stabs of a '90s europop synth, surrounded by grinning friends, gold confetti showering from above and landing mostly in my absent-mindedly open mouth, arms flailing wildly as the Vengaboys step-ball-changed their way through the song that started it all - for many the unofficial anthem of Ibiza* - We Like To Party. The Vengabus was in Ibiza and everybody was jumping… everything I had ever done in my life had led me to this moment.

Let's go back to the beginning of this blissful crescendo, because the party at Children of the 80s starts before you even get in. For those waiting in the hefty queue outside the Hard Rock Hotel, there was a totally legit 80s rock band busking on the pavement at the entrance, poking at our emotions with ballads of yesteryear from the likes of U2, their music given even greater power by their long, long hair. That's how they believed it worked in the '80s you see, the more hair, the more powerful the rock and roll, scientifically speaking. It's a theory that has since been debunked but at the time it was pervasive (it's now believed a full beard creates a sweeter indie falsetto).

Inside the pacman-themed gates there was a large collage wall of '80s heroes, with some of the Children of the 80s dancers milling around ready to take your picture or challenge you to a dance battle. We were in stretch-lycra so feeling pretty confident at our ability to win everything. Further in and Dream Team Reload were at the decks - three rambunctious Spanish men stood in a row behind their equipment (the Spanish answer to Kraftwerk, some might say**) pumping out the '80s and '90s classics and hyping the crowd. It was easy to see where the best craic was at this point, so we headed straight for the group of people at the front with inflatable flamingos and sparkly pink hats. Between the pink crew, Dream Team Reload and this guy that kept flashing his nipples at Dream Team Reload, I had never seen so many grown men jumping up and down at once. The night was young and people were already really buzzed. Every classic track was going down a storm, folks were dancing with surprising zeal and chuckling at the '80s video clips playing on the giant rubix cube stage, a colourful parade of hair-catastrophes of yore.

All roads would lead to the Vengabus tonight, but there were some legendary '90s acts to do the running man to first. Culture Beat smashed it, the current vocalist blasting out Mr Vain with some serious chops (see 80s hair theory), followed by Kate Ryan stalking her enviable pins across the stage to Voyage Voyage (a European Smash Hit, I'm told). Soul II Soul then delivered quality R'n'B with fantastic stage presence and soulful groove, playing of course their most successful release, Back To Life, and leaving us with important life messages like, “happy face, loving race, funky bass”. Really they deserved to headline, but we're all suckers for novelty outfits and group choreography, so the evening was to close with something a little more sugary. After more classics from Dream Team Reload, whose enthusiasm was finally matched by a packed crowd, it was time to Venga.

"The Vengabus was in Ibiza and everybody was jumping… everything I had ever done in my life had led me to this moment."

We were in the best of moods at this point: spilling beer, stepping on toes (with apology), punching the air and whooping for sheer nostalgic joy. We had a great little crew but I remember feeling slightly disappointed that the moment had finally arrived and there weren't more of us. Pre-Venga hype had been strong amongst the Ibiza working community and I had expected many more of my friends to turn up for the occasion. Then the fabulous four paced their way on stage and finally arrived where they had been going since 1998 as the reggae-infused We're Going to Ibiza rang out. As if answering the call, suddenly friends began to appear, and by the end of the Venga-ode to this fair white isle of ours I was surrounded by familiar, laughing faces, united in the presence of such a slick party troupe. They looked brilliant: the boys rocking the futuristic space cowboy and futuristic space sailor outfits respectively, whilst lead singer Kim Sasabone wore art deco inspired christmas wrapping paper and vocalist Denise Post-Van Rijswijk some kind of neon-ribboned gift decoration from a primary school arts and crafts class where the teacher is recently divorced and takes a lot of prescriptions meds. Word quickly spread throughout the crowd that the man under the cowboy hat was not the original man under the cowboy hat; everyone thought about it for a moment and decided that was ok. Most bizarrely of all, the Vengaboys appeared not to have aged. Proof, if ever needed, that a sense of humour keeps you young.

The hits flew past; we Boom Boom Boom Boomed, we Sha La La'd and we met Uncle John From Jamaica. It's all a bit of a blur to be honest, I just remember being really, really excited and jumping around a lot. The songs all sounded just as I remembered them, occasionally jazzed up with some 2015 bass and accompanied by the most awesome '90s unison choreography, probably peaking with the grape vine and salute combo. Last night Hard Rock was also host to the best sit down in Ibiza history, during the Venga-classic (well they're all classics), Up Down. DC10 eat your heart out, this crowd popped like a bleedin' cork.

The performance came to a close with the hit that introduced the whole world to the Vengaboys, We Like To Party (The Vengabus is Coming) which, with the addition of glitter confetti explosions, smoke cannons and lyrical bombs like “The wheels of steel are turning And traffic lights are burning”, brings us up to date. Children of the ‘80s is a party completely without pretension, solely focused on nostalgia based fun. Whilst all the acts were highly entertaining (and perhaps have contributed more to the industry, musically speaking), the Vengaboys were the living, breathing, grape-vining embodiment of this party's playful philosophy. That was straight up one of the most fun nights I've had all season.

Check out the captioned photo album on facebook here.

*Absolutely no one can confirm this.

**No one has said this either.

WORDS | Jordan Smith PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

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