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Concert review: Berlin nice to meet in San Tan Valley

Berlin with Terri Nunn in concert, March 8, 2014, San Tan Valley AZ
Berlin with Terri Nunn in concert, March 8, 2014, San Tan Valley AZ
Becky Hansen

Berlin with Terri Nunn in concert, March 8, 2014, San Tan Valley

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The Dalai Lama once said that “not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” For fans of the 1980’s electro-pop band Berlin, it was a wonderful stroke of luck that lead singer Terri Nunn did not get the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars” for which she auditioned. Otherwise, those that witnessed Terri Nunn and her band Berlin perform on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at the Good Life Festival at the Encenterra Country Club in San Tan Valley, Arizona would have missed out on something special.

Berlin in concert, March 8, 2014, San Tan Valley, AZ
Becky Hansen

Actually, many that did attend the Good Life Festival on Saturday missed out. Berlin was the opening act on a double bill which featured Huey Lewis and the News as the headliners. Only about half the crowd that showed up for Huey Lewis was there to witness Berlin’s performance. For the late arrivals, it was their loss.

For the casual music fan, Berlin is one of those bands that elicit the response “oh, I didn’t know they did that song,” or even “oh, I didn’t know that was the name of that song.” But chances are you’ve heard Terri Nunn sing. It was Berlin with Terri Nunn that performed the Oscar Award winning Best Original Song, “Take My Breath Away,” from the movie “Top Gun.”

As keyboardist Dave Schultz played a lengthy introduction on his synthesizer, Terri Nunn took the stage and the band launched into “Masquerade,” one of three singles they would play off their 1982 release “Pleasure Victim.” The live version was even more upbeat than the studio version and was a good choice to help the audience jog their memories as to Berlin’s music.

Although Nunn claimed that she was “fighting a bug,” she certainly delivered when she said she “would give you the best I got.” Her voice sounded incredible all day, hitting the high notes and not sounding strained at all. Nunn’s energy level appeared to be high throughout the show as she danced and cavorted with the other band members.

A pair of songs off of Berlin’s 1984 album, “Love Life,” followed. “No More Words,” had a few in the audience singing along. “Touch” and its infectious dance beat helped one appreciate the fine drumming Chris Olivas would deliver throughout the set. Equally noticeable was the top notch guitar work being done by Carlton Bost.

Berlin’s next number, “The Metro,” turned into an “aha” moment for some as a few pockets of fans danced to this 1981 MTV hit. Again, Nunn’s vocals were superb.

It’s always a treat when a band that was popular thirty years ago still wants to create new music that is every bit as good as what the band released in the days of their highest popularity. Berlin has managed to do so with their 2013 release, “Animal.” The title track off the album, one of four cuts the band would play from “Animal,” was the spirit of 1980’s Berlin as modernized into today’s electronic dance music.

Equally as high spirited off the album was “Nice To Meet You,” a song inspired by Nunn’s “fear of people.” However, there seemed to be no such fear as Nunn got off the stage and walked into the audience, graciously touching hands with those that offered, yet still remaining to stay on key.

As Nunn returned to the stage, the tempo slowed with Nunn’s heartfelt tribute to her mother, “Mom.” The ballad might have seemed out of place in a Berlin show thirty years ago, but was a nice sorbet to momentarily cleanse the palate of dance music.

But Berlin and Nunn are known for their sexuality and it was back to business with Prince’s “Erotic City” and another song off of “Animal,” “With the Lights On.” Nunn embraced the latter song’s playful lyrics, coyly singing them to the band members as well as to the audience.

Although despite the continuous dance beat, there was little dancing in San Tan Valley for Berlin. But that didn’t stop Nunn from once again coming into the audience for “Dancing in Berlin.” At least she got people up, even if it was more to see her walk close by rather than to dance.

But what did get people up was Nunn’s performance of “Take My Breath Away.” Now people were swaying back and forth as Nunn delivered another round of amazing vocals.

Berlin ended the show with Nunn’s tribute to one of her idols, Grace Slick, with a techno-beat version of “Somebody To Love.” It was a fitting tribute, vocals that were solid and yet the beat one would associate with a Berlin song, not a Jefferson Airplane song.

The day might not have been exactly what Terri Nunn and Berlin wanted. The audience was not a typical Berlin kind of crowd. Nunn was feeling under the weather. This would have been an easy performance to dial in. Yet Nunn was gracious and engaging to the audience. Her vocals were great, her between song banter, entertaining. The band rocked. Perhaps with a stroke of luck, more than a few those who attended will be inspired by the show to pick up a copy of “Animal.”

Set List: Masquerade | No More Words | Touch | The Metro | Animal | Like Flames | Nice To Meet You | Mom | Erotic City | With The Lights On | Dancing In Berlin | Sex (I’m A …) | Take My Breath Away | Somebody To Love