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Bailey comes to the Wilbur with Retro Futura Tour

Since Thompson Twins broke up in 1993, frontman Tom Bailey has rarely looked back.

In the ensuing years, the man known for co-writing and singing such ’80s pop hits as “Hold Me Now,” “Doctor! Doctor!,” and “Lies” set to work on several labors of love, including the electronic-dub outfit International Observer and the Holiwater project, which he describes on the phone from New York as an “East-meets-West fusion of my music with fantastic musicians from Varanasi in North India.”

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Although Bailey has released music from both of those projects in the last year, he comes to Boston to perform Thompson Twins songs for the first time in 27 years as part of the Retro Futura Tour, which lands at the Wilbur Theatre Sunday and features fellow ’80s hitmakers Howard Jones, Midge Ure of Ultravox, China Crisis, and Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and the Waves. After playing a few warm-up shows, Bailey says, “It certainly does feel like a homecoming, and when I see fans it’s like a family reunion situation. Friends from a long time ago.”

Q. Were you fans of or friends with any of the other acts on the bill back in the day?

A. Yeah, Howard I’ve known for a long time, and I’ve always felt some kind of musical kinship with him. So it’s interesting, but makes a kind of compelling sense, that we’re working together again.


Q. You recently played a small club show to prep for Retro Futura. How nervous were you?

A. I was potentially very nervous, in fact. But what happened was we put on an intro music tape before we went on, which was kind of a strange arrangement of one of the Thompson Twins hits, and the crowd just started singing along. They filled in the vocals en masse. As soon as I heard that, I felt like I was amongst family [laughs].

Q. Now that you’ve passed that initial test, are you having fun with it?

A. Yeah, because it was all about rediscovering the music. I was so divorced from it that I’ve had to rediscover it almost from the ground up. I didn’t have a Thompson Twins CD. I had to go out and buy a greatest hits [album] in order to decide whether I wanted to do this or not [laughs]. Which is kind of shamefully embarrassing, but it’s the truth. I needed to rediscover it and, in fact, it didn’t work for everything. There were some songs where I thought “Uh-uh, I can’t sing that anymore.” It’s either too silly or too sentimental or the vocal arrangement doesn’t suit where I’m at.

Q. For example?

A. Well, I’m getting a lot of stick for this, but I’m not going to sing “Lay Your Hands on Me,” which was something of a hit here. But we only have a certain amount of time and there are a lot of hits to choose from.

Q. So, mostly it’s been a pleasant rediscovery?

A. Yeah. I think when you move on from a period of success like that, psychologically it’s really tempting to deny it and say, ‘Ah, that was something I did in the past, and now I do all these serious experimental things [laughs].’ And you put that mainstream success behind you, so I had to reconnect with it.

Q. Was there a song that had the opposite effect, that you reconnected with and are excited to sing again?

A. Totally, and the one that sticks out, is a song called “If You Were Here.” It was never released as a single, so it didn’t become a hit in the normal sense. But it was immensely popular, partly because it was in a film called “Sixteen Candles.” In some way it came to represent this business of teenage romance and the uncertainty of relationships when you’re that age, so people are very fond of it. But I kind of rediscovered it and decided it was also about the business of personal responsibility and how far we achieved what we optimistically thought was in store for the world in the ’80s — because a lot of strange stuff has happened since the ’80s [laughs]. So we have to take stock and say, Did we achieve what we felt we were setting out to do? And the answer is, of course, no, not entirely. But I’d like to reinvoke that perhaps naive but important and powerful sense of optimism we had then.

Interview has been condensed and edited. Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
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