Debora Iyall - vocals; Benjamin Bossi - saxophone; Peter Woods - guitar; Frank Zincavage - bass; John Haines - drums
This top-notch recording sees San Francisco new-wave upstarts, Romeo Void, rocking their hometown, California Hall. California Hall, which no longer hosts concerts, sat on the young, bustling Polk Street, in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The quintet is supporting their debut release, 1981's It's A Condition (415 Records).
The in-form group rollicks through most of their debut album, only leaving out "Confrontation" and "Drop Your Eyes" from the 13-song set. They play slick, futuristic pop, highlighted by front woman, Debra Iyall's powerful, sultry vocals. Her full-bodied voice is a welcome surprise, as many new-wave singers tended to favor a more minimalistic, sparse approach to their craft.
Based on this performance, it is hard to explain why they never truly broke into the mainstream, as this show has many musical highlights. For one, the bass driven groove of "Love is An Illness" will get permanently lodged in your head. Also, while saxophone and new-wave may seem like strange bedfellows, Benjamin Bossi's brilliant playing adds sparkle to their sound, proving that synthesizers are not a necessity in the genre. The band's rousing closing number, "I Mean It," is a haunting rumination driven by a bass line, reminiscent of the theme from "Phantom of the Opera."
There are very few quality recordings of Romeo Void in concert, but this is of the highest quality. This recording captures the band' eccentric, varied style, and it is a joy to hear the personable group interact with an engaged, energized crowd.
Romeo Void was formed in San Francisco in 1979. The group consisted of five San Francisco Art Institute students, most of whom had strong backgrounds in visual art. Romeo Void consisted of lead vocalist, Debora Iyall, whose sterling voice and provocative lyrics became two of the band's trademarks. Another one of the group's trademarks, its soaring sax parts, were provided by Benjamin Bossi. Rounding out the original line-up were Peter Woods on guitar, Frank Zincavage on bass, and John Haines on drums. While most of the group remained stable, they would employ three different drummers during their six-year career.
At the time of this recording, the original line-up had just completed their debut, full-length release, It's A Condition. Though it didn't burn up the charts, it was warmly received by critics. Their single "Myself to Myself" was a modest hit, reaching #32 in the Billboard Club Play Singles chart. Their next LP would be 1982's Benefactor, their first for major label, Columbia Records. Like their debut, the album was a moderate success, this time creeping close to the Top 100 on the Pop Charts. 1984's Instincts (Columbia) would be their swansong, and their greatest commercial achievement. The album hit #68 on the Billboard 200, thanks, in part, to "A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)," which would be their only bona fide hit single.
The group disbanded in 1985 and seems to have no plans to reunite. Debora Iyall is currently teaching art, creating art, and living in Navaho Country in Arizona.