Glass Tiger’s Alan Frew Talks ’80s and ’90s Music Ahead of Nostalgic Concert at Toronto’s Iconic Opera House

Alan Frew

Glass Tiger lead singer Alan Frew will perform some of the biggest songs of the '80s and '90s during a concert at Toronto's Opera House this weekend. Photo: Denise Grant

Scottish-born Canadian rocker Alan Frew is a serious football fan – of both the soccer and pigskin varieties – but without his beloved New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last Sunday, he didn’t mind tuning out the big game for band rehearsals. 

This Saturday, in his debut at Toronto’s famed and historic Opera House, the lead singer of Glass Tiger is performing a solo show with a group that includes the regular drummer, bass player and backup singer from his longtime band. 

Glass Tiger, of course, is known for it’s own roster of ’80s rock classics – including the one-two punch of Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) and Someday off their seminal, multi-platinum and Juno-winning 1986 debut album The Thin Red Line. After hitting pause on the band in the early ’90s, following three platinum or multi-platinum albums and tours with legends like Tina Turner, the band began touring again in 2012. With Frew at the helm, they released three more albums and, last year, received induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

And yet, despite Glass Tiger’s catalogue of ’80s rock anthems, the Opera House show, dubbed 8090 Rewind Live In Concert, is a throwback gig featuring Frew, 67, performing hits from the likes of INXS, Tina Turner, The Tragically Hip and Tears for Fears. It’s in the vein of the rocker’s 2015 album Rewind, on which he performed songs from the ’80s and ’90s – and which he released the year after suffering a stroke that caused right-side trauma.

Frew spoke to Zoomer by phone from his Toronto home where he’s been studying up on the lyrics to four new tunes – Even Flow (Pearl Jam), Losing My Religion (REM), Just Like Heaven (The Cure) and She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult) – recently added to the nostalgia repertoire. 

Having encouraged people to “wear their ‘80s best” to the party, he’s looking forward to seeing big shoulder pads, headbands and leg warmers. 


ASHANTE INFANTRY: The music business has changed a lot since the ‘80s and ‘90s. We went from cassettes to CDs to streaming. How has music itself changed in your estimation?

ALAN FREW: I think music itself follows the same pathway, hopefully, you get some talented people that get together and create a sound, whether it’s rock, pop, jazz, hip hop, country … The only thing I’m a little disappointed with, without trying to sound too cynical, is the idea that it’s so disposable. It seems like it appears before our eyes and we listen to it and then it’s gone. And most of the people behind it are gone. Now, whether they get in the door because of social media, the way things work now with streaming, and make a big splash and maybe make themselves a bundle of money and then vanish … I don’t know, maybe some young one could come up to me and say, “Oh, you’re you’re totally wrong.” I mean, look at Taylor Swift – she’s an enigma, she put a stamp on the market. She’s been around a while, she’s done her homework. So did Adele, and so did Ed Sheeran. These acts have been around quite a few years now, and they’ve served the time, they’ve done the due diligence.


AI: You started in 1983 with Glass Tiger and have been at it a long time. How has your voice evolved?

AF: I just have one of those voices that nature gave to me and it doesn’t take much to maintain it. I don’t do anything drastic to maintain it, as long as I don’t have a flu or cold or something like that. At the beginning of a tour, I may get a little hoarse for a day or so and then it just kicks in. Same when I’m recording an album; sometimes I record the first three or four songs and by the time I’m doing the fifth one, the voice kicks in and I go back and do one, two, three, four again. It’s matured for sure; when I hear my younger voice, it doesn’t seem to have the same depth as it does now. 

Alan Frew
Glass Tiger, left to right: Michael Hanson, Wayne Parker, Alan Frew, Sam Reid and Al Connelly in 1986, the same year they released their multi-platinum, Juno-winning debut album The Thin Red Line. Photo: Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images


AI: How is it even possible that you’ve never played the Opera House before?

AF: I know, it’s wild how these things play out. You know, it was the same, I hadn’t played Massey Hall, because when we first came out we were putting 12,000 and 15,000 (people) in the arena, and so we missed Massey Hall. And then as years go by, and things start to tone down, and you’re playing smaller clubs, and you’re playing smaller arenas, we just hadn’t done Massey Hall. And it was like four years ago or something when we did it for the first time. So, I’ve never done the Opera House.


AI: You recently asked your Instagram followers what they thought the major difference was between the ’80s and ’90s and now. What do you think it is?

AF: I agree with all the sort of social and economic and political comments that were made.  As we stepped from the ’80s and ‘90s, things got refined, basic things now like cell phones and the internet, etc. But musically, I love the ‘90s because it felt like there was still metal and kind of rock in the ‘80s, but with the advent of grunge and whatnot, there was a whole new kind of power that was allowed among the pop. To listen to REM or Glass Tiger, and then suddenly you could listen to Pearl Jam and Nirvana and Metallica. I just thought that the music of the ‘90s took what the ‘80s had and sort of refined it a little more.

Visit the Opera House website for more information on Frew’s 8090 Rewind Live In Concert.