The Hippo


May 30, 2020








Courtesy photo.

Katrina (opening for Howard Jones)

When: Sunday, March 21, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road, Londonderry
Tickets: $45 - $60 at 

Sunshine girl
Katrina comes to town, sans Waves

By Michael Witthaus

Kansas-born Air Force brat Katrina Leskanich went to England in 1976 and never left. Unlike Madonna, though, she didn’t adopt a faux British accent. 

“I had dinner with an agent from New York the other night, and he was at it within two minutes,” said the singer and guitarist best known for fronting Katrina & the Waves. “Some people take one sip of the water and they’re full-blown Cockney.”
Punk rock was cresting when she arrived, but military life in Europe was insular and solidly American. So Leskanich barely knew bands like Sex Pistols and the Damned existed. Instead, she listened to Casey Kasem on AFN and begged her parents for Cat Stevens and Fleetwood Mac albums from the PX. At age 16, she formed a band called Mama’s Cookin’ that played Linda Ronstadt, Heart and Foghat covers on the base circuit.
Leskanich’s new album Blisland consciously reflects those musical times, from the Stevie Nicks inflections on the title cut to “Texas Cloud,” a clear ZZ Top homage. But there are also elements of the sound that made her an MTV star back in the day. In particular, the syncopated drum riff launching “Definition” offers a clear trace of her biggest song. 
“It’s definitely a throwback,” she said. “It’s a little bit urgent.”
“Walking On Sunshine” ruled the summer of 1985 and more than a few after. Ad revenue brought wealth to the members of Katrina & the Waves, and the shiny happy tune is a pop culture staple. Leskanich quite enjoyed seeing demented yuppie Christian Bale listen to it through Walkman headphones in American Psycho. 
“That was cool and fun,” she said, “obviously a moment filled with immense irony.”
It’s the “Johnny B. Goode” of the 1980s, and bands will probably still be covering it 100 years from now. Leskanich has a few favorites, like the bluegrass version Dolly Parton used to opens shows. 
“That brought a big smile,” she said — despite a slightly altered chorus. “That’s OK, she’s Dolly Parton. … She understands the power of this song to make people happy, get them to smile and loosen up.”
Strangely, her band thought the song was very uncool when lead guitarist and songwriter Kimberley Rew first brought it to them, four years before it became a hit. 
“It wasn’t us. … We were the Velvet Underground and I was Nico,” Leskanich said. “Our bass player said it was irritating; then our drummer said, ‘Yes, but it’s a good thing, chaps.’”
Reluctantly, they began playing the song. 
“In the beginning it was a dance floor emptier,” Leskanich said. “Even now, people don’t know how to dance to it. They just jump up and down like lunatics.”
Leskanich is opening for Howard Jones at an upcoming Tupelo Music Hall date, a reprise of last fall’s Retro Futura tour, which also included Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Midge Ure and China Crisis. Her set will feature songs from various stages of her career like “Red Wine & Whiskey” and “Going Down to Liverpool,” a song that led to their first big break when The Bangles covered it. 
She’ll also play the late 1980s hit “That’s The Way” and 1997 Eurovision song contest winner “Love Shine a Light” along with a cover of the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and tracks from Blisland. Of course, the show will end happily with “Walking On Sunshine” — her musical calling card. 
“It’s always good to be associated with a positive song because whenever I step out on stage people are already prepared to have a good time; they’re smiling with anticipation,” she said. “I am not going to let them down.”
As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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