This is a part of our full coverage of the 2018 80s Cruise. Read more about the floating music festival here.
Berlin emerged the darlings of last year’s sailing when their first show in the ship’s midsized venue was so packed that ECP moved the band to the main theater and had them close out the Cruise. The last 12 months did little to tamper that enthusiasm as fans flocked to every event featuring the band from wine tastings to game shows. Adding to the excitement this year the announcement leading up to the Cruise that the band would be joined on stage by David Diamond and John Crawford.
It came as a shock to industry insiders and fans alike when Terri Nunn announced in 2016 that Diamond and Crawford were reuniting with the band to record a new album. Berlin spent the 80s helping to define American new wave, but the same passion that fueled their creativity often caused rifts in the band. When the band dissolved once and for all in 1988, it seemed that they would never share a studio again.
The band started as a quartet called, The Toys, with Crawford at the helm. It wasn’t long before the name was changed, and Nunn replaced the lead singer. The newly christened, Berlin, put out their first single, “A Matter of Time,” on a small indie label in 1979. Determined to try her hand at acting, Nunn left the band the following year, leaving the band without a singer. They replaced her with and put out their first full-length album, Information, but Berlin didn’t work without Nunn and the band broke up.
Crawford and Nunn reunited when he asked her to come in and sing on some demos. Local radio took notice of the tracks and after a baby-faced David Diamond joined the group, Berlin went on to release the platinum-selling, Pleasure Victim, in 1982. The trio would blossom into a sextet for 1984’s, Love Life, but the expanded lineup didn’t last. By the time they recorded Count Three and Pray in 1986, they were back to a trio – this time without Diamond.
Things went from bad to worse between Crawford and Nunn with the recording of what would become their best-selling song, “Take My Breath Away.” Giorgio Moroder penned the track for the Top Gunsoundtrack and Crawford didn’t consider it a real Berlin song. Nunn was understandably proud of the hit that went on to win an Oscar® for Best Original Song. The acrimony caused Nunn to quit the band and Berlin broke for again in 1988.
The former band members each tried to make it on their own, but nothing could match the success they achieved with their combined talents. Nunn’s solo effort, 1991’s Moment of Truth, bore the brunt of the Berlin comparisons. Ultimately, she wanted to tour as Berlin, but with a new lineup. The decision involved a heated legal dispute with Crawford and although she won, it left things more unsettled than before.
Crowds wouldn’t have known any of that history watching the three original members interact onboard. The energy between them was affectionate and cheerful making it hard to believe there was every any rancor between them. Crawford proved to be more introverted than expected but seemed genuinely thrilled by the excited reaction he received from fans. Diamond and Nunn continued to be as charming as last year, interacting with passengers as though they were all old friends back for another group vacation.
All of that positive energy translated gratifyingly to the stage. For more than a decade, Berlin consisted of Nunn, Christopher Olivas, Carlton Bost, and Dave Schulz, but when Diamond and Crawford came out to join them, it was like they were old friends. The set opened with Olivas, Bost, and Shulz playing Nunn in with MTV favorite, “No More Words” from Love Life. The quartet was joined a few songs later by David Diamond who played guitar alongside Bost.
The dynamic between the band members consistently made for a festive atmosphere throughout the venue. After playing two of the more infectious songs from 80s, “Masquerade” and “Like Flames,” the band launched into their version of Depeche Mode’s, “Never Let Me Down Again.” In a week of ill-fitting cover songs performed by other artists, their choice worked because it kept the raw energy of the original while adding an unexpected sparkle to the track.
After performing the title track from 2013’s, Animal, Nunn introduced Crawford, embracing him as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. Unlike Diamond, who happily played the front of the stage, Crawford was happy to play bass in the back of the stage, well behind Schulz’s keyboards. He was occasionally drawn out by Nunn, but he seemed the anti-rock star.
The full band went to familiar territory with “Touch,” another track from Love Life. After singing the first part of the song, Nunn walked to the side of the stage and hopped onto the shoulders of a waiting security guard. He walked her up one aisle and back down front while she sang and high-fived fans from her perch. After landing safely back on stage, she introduced one of the songs the band recently finished for their new, still untitled album.
Like “Animal,” “I Want You” proved Berlin has evolved musically while keeping the racy playfulness that was the hallmark of the band in the 80s. Songs like, “Sex (I’m A)” and “Touch” scandalized some in the media back in the day, but the band reacted to the criticism with a wink, refusing to be chastened by outdated mores. Nunn has since admitted that early on, she internalized the criticisms, but she never let it show.
The new tracks proved that she still had the unique ability to sing lascivious lyrics in a way that made them seem empowering instead of lewd. Her sexiness accompanied by childlike giddiness made her accessible in ways that others weren’t. As if to remind the audience that some things never change, the band followed “I Want You” with the title track from, Pleasure Victim.
The band invited people up on stage for the infectious, “Dancing in Berlin”. The audience was dressed for “Pop Icon” night, which meant they weren’t sharing the space with crowds dressed in t-shirts and jeans. Singing along with the band were Beetlejuice, Doug Henning, David Copperfield, four students from Eastland Academy, two smurfs, a female Bruce Springsteen, and a Terri Nunn circa 1985.
Nunn’s next shoulder-top tour of the venue for “Take My Breath Away” felt a tad too sedate after watching two Yip Yips dance like Molly Ringwald, but it was followed by the only song that could compete with that spectacle. Crawford joined Nunn in the spotlight to sing, “Sex (I’m A)” for the first time since 1988. Instantly, it was easy to picture him clad in a brocade jacket wearing eyeliner and lip gloss.
The band finished the set with a thunderous cover of AC/DC’s, “Highway to Hell” and took their bows with a collective smile on their faces. They had hosted the best party on the Cruise and took the audience along with them.