Trinity Cathedral – Cleveland, OH. – April 5, 2016
Contributor: Tim Malone
Normally I’d be here to dish on the world of professional wrestling. However, today I’m here to serve a higher purpose. I recently crossed an item off of my “bucket list” when I saw 1980’s pop icon Belinda Carlisle at the intimate Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, OH.
You now get the inside scoop on an evening of magic.
At 6’10 and over 300 pounds, the front row is not a place you’d normally see TTT. I’m well aware that I make a better door than a window. However, the music of Belinda Carlisle has been a presence in my life since I was a teenager. I’m not just talking about the hits. Many hours have been spent listening to Runaway Horses and Live Your Life Be Free, her lesser known albums. So when the opportunity came to be in the front row, it was one I could not pass up. Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, seating wasn’t assigned. I was in the Gold Circle section, which meant that if I WANTED it bad enough, and SACRIFICED hard enough, I could be in the FRONT ROW ahead of everyone else. This meant leaving home at 4:00 in the afternoon to drive up to Cleveland to get there before the doors opened.
I was not alone. When I arrived just after six, there were already 50 people who had arrived before me. I spoke to over a dozen who also ventured further than an hour away for the show. The two gentlemen I sat near in the front row had come all the way from the United Kingdom and were attending almost half the tour.
This is the devotion inspired by the music of Belinda Carlisle.
Sitting next to me was a veteran of the concert-going experience, “Heidi.” This woman has seen New Kids on the Block over fifty times. She has traveled all over the country to pay homage to the artists to which she is most devoted. Heidi wasn’t there solely for Belinda, but also the opening act, Gabe Lopez. She knew of him from his production work for Joey McIntyre of NKOTB.
The show started right on time with a five-song set by Lopez. He came out alone with his guitar and had the rest of his sound coming from a laptop. He wasn’t listed on the website when I bought my tickets. I don’t think most people even knew there was an opener until he appeared.
The were some audio issues during his performance. Personally, I think it would have been better had his band been there. Ultimately, though, the evening was all about Belinda. He seemed happy just to be along for the ride.
After a break, it was time for the main event.
Belinda came out in a black ensemble, with leopard print slippers that she wore for little more than one song. She looked more suited to teach a dance class than a night of rocking over 500 people.
Next was “Head Over Heels,” a hit from her days with The Go-Go’s.
I know that pop music isn’t the most respected art form, but minutes into the show it was apparent we were watching a master at work. She danced around barefoot with the grace of a ballerina and held the crowd in the palm off her hand. She played for about 90-minutes and her voice never once faltered.
Audience interaction is a cherished tradition at concerts. They are special moments that fans can treasure for years afterward. I can now proudly say that I have had mine. Early on, she asked the crowd what was with the weather. I shouted out the obvious answer first.
“You’re in Cleveland!”
She cracked a smile while she was talking and forgot what she was about to say.
I have wanted to see Belinda for so long that when I found out about this show, I just bought the tickets without hesitation. Later, when I realized that it was happening at a CHURCH and that her latest album is in FRENCH, I was concerned about what kind of show I would be getting. Thankfully, she gave the crowd just what they, and I, wanted.
Her 17-song set was loaded with greatest hits that any Belinda fan would love. She devoted seven songs to the Runaway Horses album. The four biggest hits from the Go-Go’s and the hits from Heaven on Earth were the tent-poles of the night. The traditional Karen Carpenter classic, “Superstar,” capped the evening.
The energy during the show was off the charts. Trinity Cathedral is a breathtaking venue, but when Belinda started it was simply a place she was playing. However, by the conclusion of her performance, the room was electrified. Early in the set, the crowd surrounded the stage. I personally witnessed two people push others out of the way to get closer.
In some ways, I was reminded of the vibe of an independent wrestling show. A big star from the past comes to town for a performance at a small venue in front of their most die-hard fans. Gabe Lopez felt like a journeyman worker on the undercard trying to win over the audience.
After the show, Heidi and I chatted with Lopez in the lobby. Not an experience you’re likely to have with the opener for Bruce Springsteen at “The Q.”
Overall, I have to say I’m really glad I spend the $74 and devoted an entire day to be at the show.
Here are two fan-shot videos from the night: