Pat Sharp, compere of the We Love The 90s tour, is looking forward to its opening night at the First Direct Arena. “It’s kicking off in Leeds, where better to be?” he says in tones instantly familiar from a 35-year career on radio and television.
“Eighty per cent of what I do these days is based on the 80s, so when I do this I quite like it because everybody looks about 10 years younger. It’s a strange thing to look out into a crowd and think, ‘These people look so much better than the ones last weekend’. But then, of course, I don’t look any younger, that’s the problem.
“The 90s is very synonymous with me, even though I do mostly 80s, because the 90s was the decade where I had this kids’ TV show Fun House that ran for the whole decade, and I think that’s why these guys chose me as the host for this show, to represent these bands that we’re going to be introducing.”
Sharp will be the link man between the 15 acts, including Vengaboys, 2 Unlimited, Snap! and Whigfield, who’ll be performing on the night. “I’m going to bring each band on and off, and if there’s any gaps that need to be filled I’ll grab my headphones and start smashing out some tunes so the crowd keep bouncing up and down in between.”
Now aged 58, Sharp believes there is so much nostalgia for the 90s around at the moment “mainly because people like to have a good time and they look back on a time when they perhaps didn’t have this smartphone that took over their lives”.
“They were happy with a hoop and a stick and remember going to the record store and buying these songs and being excited at a radio station playing a new record by one of these bands at eight o’clock on a Thursday morning, whereas now all that excitement seems to have gone because of the powerful phone in one’s pocket that does everything for you and links you to another world of social media that you’re permanently transfixed by.
“When my kids’ show was on TV people came home and watched it not because it was the best kids’ show but because there were only four channels and there wasn’t a lot of children’s TV and they didn’t have all these other things to distract them. They’d chuck the schoolbag down and put it on and that’s why, all these years later, people remember it and remember me from these things, because it’s from a time in their life when they didn’t have so much going on and didn’t have to look every two seconds to see if they’ve received a ‘like’ from somebody.”
While the 90s tend to be remembered for Britpop and bands such as Oasis and Blur, much of the shiny Europop music that shared an equal place in the UK charts is often overlooked. Shows such as We Love The 90s offer some redress.
“If you think about it, this show is pretty much pop music and dance music, it’s uplifting stuff and there’s no Britpop artists in it,” Sharp says. “The company that puts this show together is Norwegian, it’s called Nordik Beat. I’ve done another show for them in Norway which is called We Love the 80s because I used to be on the Sky Channel back in the day, which was the forerunner of Sky TV, right across Europe. I was a video jockey introducing the likes of A-ha, Duran Duran and Culture Club and interviewing all the bands back in the early 80s.
“I play a lot in Norway because I’m still well-know over there and I’m married to a Norwegian, so they have a nice affinity for me. The 90s is proving more and more popular for them as a brand, so that’s why they’ve brought it to the UK.
“2Unlimited, Ace of Base and the Vengaboys all had number one records that shifted hundreds of thousands of copies. But I don’t think it’s necessarily relevant to the bands, without being rude to them, it’s relevant to the time, because people did buy records then because there were record shops and people enjoyed knowing who was going to be number one and were still excited by a record coming out. Now I can’t tell you anybody in the chart and I work in the business, and I doubt if any 15-year-old kid could tell you who is number one in the chart. I don’t think even they care.”
Also appearing on the bill is Jenny Berggren, former lead singer in Ace of Base, the Swedish hitmakers who sold more than 50 million records worldwide. These days, she says, package tours such as We Love the 90s are a regular part of her schedule. “When I am out I have various things I do. I do concerts on my own, I also do concerts together with only one artist from the 90s and whenever people want me, I do this. I’ve been doing it since 2011 as Jenny from Ace of Base, so I’ve been doing it quite a long time and it’s been growing on me, the whole project.
“We have become friends, some of us, actually. I know them privately now, the artists that are on the show, so that’s really cool because we are colleagues. Before we were competitors, but now we’re colleagues. That comes across on stage. It’s not a competitive thing at all, it’s fun.”
The show has an air of celebration. “When people get nostalgic, sometimes you can really bring back memories from where you were before, and you can make them stronger again. OK, what happened in the last 20 years, you can dwell on that, but for many people I think it’s ‘I had so much fun to this music and I can still have it’. It’s a treasure that is hidden. I’m just so happy I can do these things because usually it’s a fantastic and spectacular event. People dress up, they come in all sorts.”
The appeal of these concerts is cross-generational, but primarily Berggren feels, those who grew up in the 90s “are just having time of their own”.
“Sometimes I meet a mother and a daughter, and the daughter is maybe 18 or 19 so she grew up with the music. The mother has been having the music on in the house forever, making whatever they did when they were young mothers. I usually meet a lot of generations. Very seldom, though, do they bring their grandmothers, but I think I’ve seen one or two.”
We Love the 90s is at First Direct Arena, Leeds on Friday December 13. www.firstdirectarena.com