Review: Heaven is a place in Leamington as Belinda Carlisle wows the crowd

Belinda and band on stage. Picture: Matthew Barton
Belinda and band on stage. Picture: Matthew Barton

Matthew Barton reviews Belinda Carlisle at the Assembly in Leamington

Thirty years on from her breakthrough solo LP Heaven on Earth, American singer and songwriter Belinda Carlisle is back on British soil for a celebratory anniversary tour, and the sold out audience at the Assembly in Leamington delighted in a glorious show incorporating many of her most recognisable hits.

Carlisle’s latest album Wilder Shores is a collection of pop-infused Sikh chants inspired by her travels around Asia, but she steered clear of the new material to focus on the joyful singalongs of her earlier work. As much as the Leamington crowd lapped up the rousing choruses and Eighties keyboard fills, this was no nostalgia act – the tight band injected a propulsive rock energy to the songs that recalled the dynamism of her punk roots in The Go Go’s, while the charismatic Carlisle’s now-huskier voice still commanded the stage with its powerful Stevie Nicks-esque vibrato.

Three decades later, the quality of the songwriting still shone through - alongside classics including a haunting Circle in the Sand, emotive I Get Weak, and of course the ageless Heaven is a Place on Earth, Carlisle, skipping about the stage with vigour, slotted in other highlights including a beautifully affecting Vision of You and spellbinding Summer Rain from 1989’s Runaway Horses, where her distinctive voice interplayed with the rhythm section perfectly.

Carlisle’s music stands for melodic invention, sun-kissed California harmonies, and jubilant optimism – and as a soaring Love Never Dies closed the show, the Assembly crowd surely left uplifted from a feel-good evening.

* Belinda Carlisle performed at the Assembly on Thursday October 12. Visit leamingtonassembly.com for details of future shows at the venue.