Through a thoroughly unscientific survey conducted by this publication, it has been determined that the best way to hear Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” is when it is performed by a spot-on ’80s cover band, surrounded by a couple hundred jumping, clapping and singing ’80s music lovers, and with 99 actual red balloons raining down on you and your fellow clubgoers.
If this has ever happened to you, you were probably at Canal Room on a Saturday Night, and you probably loved it.
Every Saturday for the past three years, the downtown venue has played host to the Back To The Eighties show, a festive flashback jam starring Rubix Kube, the “ultimate ’80s cover band,” delivering nostalgic musical bliss to a consistently packed house. Fronted by female and male lead vocalists Cherie Martorana and Scott Lovelady, and backed by a talented set of musicians, Rubix Kube gleefully cover a range of styles made popular during the Reagan years, happily embracing the retrospectively cheesy style that set the decade apart.
For the first of a two-night three year anniversary celebration, the Back to the Eighties show reached into a wide bag of musical guest tricks, inviting artists from several genres to rock alongside Rubix Kube. From new wave pioneer Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls (“I Ran [So Far Away]”) to pop princess Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”), to hip hop icons Rob Base (“It Takes Two”) and Naughty By Nature (“O.P.P”), the Canal Room audience was treated to a wide spectrum of ’80s musical energy and charm.
Rubix Kube spaced the show brilliantly, sprinkling the special guests throughout their finely tuned show, excitedly romping through the era’s classics, reincarnating hits like Journey’s “Any Way You Want It,” Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” and Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.”
A rousing, African drum and dance-filled rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” while perhaps a bit long, showcased the lengths that Rubix Kube will go to, in order to fully channel the iconic musicians they portray. From costume to vocal inflections to musical symmetry, the quick-change artistry, glam-glorifying costumes and ability to conjure music memories make their staying power understandable.
The guest stars did not disappoint. Female rap trio JJ Fad got things started, with a lively and coordinated performance including their best known song, “Supersonic.” A brief appearance by former boy band tourmate Tommy Page, performing his NKOTB-featured hit song “I’ll Be Your Everything,” kept things moving, but the proverbial roof was emphatically raised with a rousing performance of “It Takes Two” by 2.5-hit wonder Rob Base, supercharging the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.
Mike Score, founding member of A Flock Of Seagulls, set up with a keyboard and a mic, singing a lesser known song before launching into the instantly recognizable “I Ran (So Far Away).” While Rubix Kube did a stellar job at recreating classics throughout the night, hearing the distinctive 80s style of “I Ran,” in the original performer’s voice, really helped further the atmospheric fantasy being created by the music, the decorations and the props.
And then there was Tiffany.
Once a top-tier teen pop star, Tiffany has continued in the music business throughout the years, clearly evidenced by her brief but charismatic performance. Emphatically embraced by the audience, Tiffany belted out “Could Have Been,” as well as her #1 hit, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” adding soulful twists to the dance classic. She was enjoyable, sang well, and had the audience singing along enthusiastically. It was almost as if she had never left.
Rounding out the guest appearances in an equally bombastic manner was New Jersey representatives Naughty By Nature, who tore through their rap classics “O.P.P.,” “Hip Hop Hooray,” and “Uptown Anthem.” Technically more ’90s than ’80s, the duo, who still tour the world extensively, were well received, lively and animated, with Vin Rock throwing O.P.P. stickers into the crowd, and Treach ripping his shirt off, visually punctuating his signature rapid-fire delivery.
Rubix Kube reassembled to close out the show with the perfect-for-singing-along “Living on a Prayer,” and an onstage musical mashup, bringing JJ Fad out one more time. The crowd only barely thinning out after hours basking in throwback glory provided one last snapshot of the highly successful niche carved out by the unmistakably entertaining Back to the Eighties show.
RUBIX KUBE on Today