At 8 p.m. sharp, The Buggles' vinyl record, which was displayed on the backdrop of the Music Hall at Fair Park, began to spin to the opening bars of the group's best-known song, “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Standing in front of five supporting musicians on congas, drums, guitar, synth and backing vocals, frontman and musical director of the night’s show, Trevor Horn — armed with a five-string bass — set the tone for a night of nostalgia and new memories.
The musicians, wearing T-shirts reading “BEST BUGGLES (EVER),” were excited to play the band’s first show in Dallas.
It’s amazing how many songs you can forget over time. Horn led the audience through Buggles singles such as “Living in a Plastic Age," “L Street,” “I’m a Coward” and their signature song foretelling the death of radio — all of them were performed with origin stories in between, including one about how former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recognized him as “the chappy that wrote that song.”
Horn, wearing a shiny silver sport coat, seemed to revel in the fact that The Buggles were such a niche and short-lived band, smiling with every song introduction, knowing he was about to recall a faint memory of a song you know you’ve heard, but can’t quite place.
The Buggles did play a cover, a song from Horn’s time in Yes and a definite fan-favorite, with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
And at just 30 minutes, the set was over and the band gathered for a bow to an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Seal’s iconic image from the cover of Seal (II) replaced Horn on the stage during a quick set change. Seal’s presence was still felt during the walk-in music as “Southern Cross” from one of his favorite bands, Crosby Stills & Nash, played alongside Joni Mitchell.
The crowd, which had remained seated and mostly stoic during The Buggles’ set, rose to their feet, where most would remain until the show’s conclusion.
With Horn and the rest of the new Buggles reformulated behind him, Seal rushed to the front of the stage for an electric performance of his first hit song in America, “Crazy,” leading the audience in handclaps and accepting a single rose along the way.
From the outset, it was clear that Seal was no longer interested in a track-for-track retelling of his first two albums. Seal came to Dallas to put on an exciting show.
He invited the audience to sing along with the chorus and clap along to the finale of his second song, the leading track, “The Beginning,” from his self-titled debut.
The singer later pulled out a solid white Fender, matching his solid white suit, for a heartfelt rendition of “Deep Water,” during which every single member of the audience found themselves gripping their chest in a real, heartfelt connection with the artist.
Seal removed his coat to the hoots and hollers of the audience, picked up a guitar and addressed the audience, asking how they've been. And after letting the audience know how great and gorgeous they were, he began a stripped-down, acoustic version of “Whirlpool.”
When it came to “Future Love Paradise,” Seal was greeted with enthusiastic audience members singing out the opening lines, proving that there are plenty in Dallas who still appreciate the deep cuts from an album that captured the imagination of millions three decades ago.
It happened again when he sang “Don’t Cry.”
Throughout the concert, Seal had some really beautiful video imagery playing in the background, but with a presence as commanding as his, it was easy to forget it was there at all. Seal’s music videos played behind the live songs, showing that he's barely aged at all these 30 years.
It should be noted, too, that the music was beautiful, as the space of the Music Hall at Fair Park provided the perfect sounding board for the intricately planned production by Trevor Horn.
Watching those singing along at a Seal show is in itself an amazing pastime. It’s bearded dudes in flannel, white women you’d be tempted to call “Karen,” it’s women of color dressed to the nines, it’s ushers who can’t help but sing, it’s an older crowd who knows and a younger crowd who is finding out.
The second half of the set was all hits: “Bring It On” and “Prayer for the Dying,” with a quick breather, “Fast Changes,” before closing with his first English dance single “Killer,” which he performed from the crowd, and, of course, “Kiss From a Rose” completed a set designed with love and admiration for Seal’s most adoring fans.
Of course, Seal couldn’t let the show be a simple celebration of two albums, closing with an encore of two songs from Seal IV before saying good night to Dallas.
Seal was the ultimate showman Sunday night. Not only did he engage frequently with the audience immediately in front of him, he interacted with his backing band, he listened to the calls from the back of the music hall, he made his presence felt through it all, always responding with love and warmth.
There is no way that anyone from that concert left without feeling like they had made a personal connection with Seal.