We Love The 90s...
Vengaboys - Live Gallery At Telenor Arena, Oslo

If extra terrestrials landed in the UK they could be forgiven for believing that in the nineties people only took Screamadelica off the stereo to listen to Blur or Oasis. By contrast, touching down in Oslo’s Telenor Arena recently would have left a rather different impression of the decade’s music.

Billed as We Love the ‘90s, the lineup included Haddaway, Culture Beat and “special guests” The Vengaboys, as well as quite a few more who whose charms failed to reach these shores. Headlining were the mighty Scooter, who have been together for almost 20 years.

Among them was Captain Jack, a duo fronted by about a dozen different people and whose best-known singer, Frankie Gee, died in 2005. The latest incarnation is unremarkable, but thankfully does not hang around for long enough to become annoying.

One of the biggest crimes against music during the nineties were Aqua, who sold over 20m albums worldwide, leading many to erroneously claim that this made them good. Fortunately they were not appearing, but fellow Danes, Daze, proved that when it comes to songs which induce a desire to commit acts of grievous bodily harm, their song ‘Tamagotchi’ even manages to ace the nauseating ‘Barbie Girl’.

Daze’s appearance might have been part of a conspiracy to get people to buy another unpalatable Danish export, Carlsberg Lager. Despite costing almost £9 for a bottle (which for obvious reasons had to be poured into a plastic vessel), alcohol was now becoming a necessity. However, just as we’d written off Daze, they redeemed themselves by having a band member run around the stage naked, serving as a reminder that prior to being known for crap beer and bad pop music, Denmark was famous for being the world’s largest producer of hardcore pornography.

Although Haddaway had quite a few hits, he is famous for ‘What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)’ which he chose as his opening song. During his second number the music suddenly stopped, providing our hero with the opportunity to exclaim that he is the real deal and was not miming. This he demonstrated by singing the opening verse of ACDC’s ‘TNT’.

Given the high turnover of members in other acts, it is quite a relief to know that it really is Haddaway, although these days he appears to have a few issues, probably because most people remember only one of his songs. Performing a cover version of Frankie Goes To Holywood’s (eighties) smash, ‘Relax’, might have formed part of some kind of self-help routine. However, just in case we have forgotten who he is, Haddoway gives ‘What Is Love’ a second airing, this time accompanied by a blonde woman nobody seems to recognise (blonde women seem to be part of the rider here and appear with almost every act).

The Vengaboys differ from most of the other acts performing at We Love The 90s, is that they had a string of hits which everyone remembers. In fact, it is clear that this is the act that many in the audience have come to see, even if the original blokes have been replaced by two former members of the Village People who were cryogenically frozen 30 years ago and have now been thawed out for this special occasion.

If back in 1998 somebody had suggested I might end up within spitting distance of the Vengaboys (and not actually spit on them), cheering enthusiastically to ‘We’re Going To Ibiza’, ‘We Like To Party’, ‘Up And Down’ and ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’, I might have punched them. In 2012 I find myself wishing they had been given a longer slot, not least because they were followed by E Type.

Despite looking like a temporary member of ‘80s Black Sabbath and jumping into the crowd, his brand of Eurodance can only be appreciated in places where ecstasy did not influence the dance scene.

Fortunately, after some more news clips from the’ 90s and interludes by two former radio presenters, Scooter serve as a fantastic reminder of somewhere it did. Led by frontman HP Baxter, the trio are flanked by not just one, but two blondes, as well as a couple of dancing boys wearing hoodies, storming into action with their signature anthem ‘Faster, Harder, Scooter’.

It is easy to laugh at Scooter, but standing in the mosh pit jumping around to a combination of football inspired chants, absurd lyrics, smurf-like vocal samples and a soundtrack touching on happy hardcore, you realise you are actually laughing at yourself. The secret of Scooter’s success is that they are unique and nobody else puts on a show quite like this. To say they are shit is like saying Kiss are shit – and completely misses the point. Scooter are pure entertainment and are a joy to watch.

When former Eurovision winner, Norwegian violinist Alexander Rybak joins Scooter on ‘How Much Is The Fish’ it provides an extra twist to the whole occasion. And when the band encore to finish with a second rendition of ‘Faster, Harder, Scooter’ – this time with HP Baxter strumming a flame-throwing guitar – it is not because they don’t have more material, it is because it is simply a great way to finish.

In the UK our musical excursion met with amused admiration, even envy, while Norwegian mates seemed to regard it more as a decathlon of shite. We Love The ‘90s is set to move into Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands this year, so don’t rule out an the tour coming to the UK.

And if they want to be truly representative of what was happening here they had better get on the phone to N’Trance, The Time Frequency and one of the decade’s best sellers, Robson & Jerome. We owe it to the aliens.

Words by Olaf Furniss
Photo by Håvard Joerstad

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