The big question walking down the grapevine flanked path at Villa Maria winery was could A-ha's vocalist Morten Harket still hit that giddy high note?
It's been 35 years since the Norwegian band took out the charts with their infectious 80s classic Take On Me and Harket's vocal jump in the chorus is undoubtedly the catchiest part in a song built entirely out of catchy hooks. It is the Everest of pop choruses. Could he still reach its delirious summit?
We didn't have to wait long to find out. The band were playing their synth-pop classic, and debut record, Hunting High and Low, in its entirety. Track one: Take on Me. Could Harket do it? Would Harket do it? Should Harket do it?
But first. Rick Astley.
Astley had enjoyed massive pop success rolling off the 80s production line of Stock Aitken Waterman in the late 80s before deciding teeny-bop pop wasn't for him and shifting gears into occasional soul tinged adult-contemporary releases and a fair amount of reclusiveness. Then the internet came calling, turning his dance-pop hit Never Gonna Give You Up into one of its founding memes and earning him a legion of new fans.
It's the song I wanted to hear him sing. I didn't know any others apart from Together Forever, his other SAW hit which sounds almost identical, just more watered down.
That's what he opened with and it was a great choice. It got the people onboard. Then he went straight into a new track called Beautiful Life. No one wants to hear the new stuff, right? Wrong. This song was some smooth funk and kept the people on their feet and clapping along. "Can I have the police clapping too?" he grinned during the solo as two bobbies walked near the stage.
Astley, dare I say it, was a cool customer. Dude was relaxed. Chill. All over the stage and clearly having a great time, casually twirling or flipping his mic in his hands between lyrics, his smooth baritone effortlessly belting out his hits. He joked around. He had bants. He wanted to celebrate the end of the tour and ordered a round of wine for everyone on the stage. "It better not be bloody French," he joked, looking out over the vineyard.
Most of all he knew what the people wanted.
"You want a bit of 80s really don't you?" he asked, mostly rhetorically, before the sparkly keyboards and driving beat of She Wants to Dance With Me started up.
I vaguely remembered it but I definitely remembered Lizzo's smash Juice which somehow the song morphed into before I'd even realised what was going on. Astley ceded center stage to his two back-up singers - dressed in funky 80s streetwear - who absolutely killed it.
This was the Rick Astley/Lizzo mash-up I never knew I needed.
He built expectation. "Most of you won't know this next one, but every one of you will know the one after." The excitement was palpable. It'd been a great set but he knew the song we were all waiting for.
He finished the song we didn't know. Now was the time. The moment we were all hear for. The song started. But wait.
There was no electronic drums squelching out a thundering roll to kick things off. Instead, the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar. Yes, friends, Astley had superbly Rickrolled us.
A brief second of confusion as the chords coalesced into Crowded House's breezy classic Weather With You. Superb.
Then, finally, Astley gave it up. Never Gonna Give You Up was as much cheery, cheesy, 80s fun as you could have hoped.
And now was the time to find out if Harket could still take on Take On Me or if the steep vocal challenge of that chorus would take him out.
The stage turned blue and that surging, propulsive beat kicked off. The kick drum pounding the ground as synth legend's Mags Furuholmen jaunty synth riff danced over the top.
They tore through the song's earworm verse, the curious phrasing of the lyrics as enigmatically intriguing now as they were 35 years ago. The big moment getting closer and closer as the verse capped off with its endearingly strange question, "I'll be coming for your love, okay?".
"Take on Meeeee," Harket sang beginning the ascent, before the band repeated the line back albeit from a much lower, safer footing. "Take me ooooon," he sang inching up. The band dropped into half time. "I'll be goooooooone," he crooned, slipping on the first word but grabbing the second and assuredly scaling up the third to coo the next line.
"In a day or..."
The band redlined back up to full speed. The crowd held its breath. And then Harket, with one hand casually stuffed in his jeans pocket, sang like a broken hearted angel returning to heaven.
Even if the effort did leave him noticeably reeling.
They triumphantly finished the song and... left the stage? A man came out and said, "the computer has shat itself," and they'd be five minutes sorting it out. 15minutes later A-ha returned.
"How are you enjoying it so far?" Mags, who did most of the talking, asked with a sheepish grin. "Welcome to 1985."
He said they were going to start over and would play Take on Me again. The crowd cheered.
Harket, that crazy bugger, was going to do it again. Could he? Would he? Should he?
The stage turned blue and that surging, propulsive beat kicked off...