O.K. in the U.K., the Brothers Goss, Known as Bros, Are Still Looking for Respect in the States

updated 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Back home in England, Matt and Luke Goss, 21-year-old identical twins, are the superstar duo known as Bros—the biggest duet to hit the British rock scene since Wham! Problem is, these two white-bread soul brothers can't even get arrested in America.

Attempting a modest excursion to the colonies last summer, Bros (rhymes with cross) performed as the opening act for teen queen Debbie Gibson. Now playing to early arrivals on a generally lackluster tour, the brothers need to remind themselves how big they are back home, where their 6.5 million-selling debut album, Push, shoved six singles into the Top 5. In St. Paul (just a few weeks after they performed before 66,000 at London's Wembley Stadium), Bros can't get even a sing-along going in the nearly empty 17,000-seat Civic Center Arena. The audience is willing but unfamiliar with Bros material, described by a local critic as "disposable funk." Adding to the brothers' misery are bad head colds. Backstage they blow their stacks, railing at their equipment handlers and cursing their fate. But their natural—or perhaps preternatural—optimism returns quickly. "We're real big all over the world, and we know we have fans here," says lead singer Matt, who's the older Bro by 20 minutes. "We just have to arouse them." Can they do it? Just ask Elton John. Rather, ask Matt to quote John, who once said (according to Matt), "There is no white singer in the world with [Matt's] vocal presence."

Sons of a London detective and a former cabaret singer, now divorced, the brothers Goss were raised in a "supportive, very kissy-kissy" home, according to Luke. School dropouts at 16, they knocked around in a number of groups before becoming Bros in 1986. While Luke, the drummer, has a girl back in Surrey, Matt plays the field in London, "though the press would die to pair me up with a girlfriend," he says.

Since it sometimes seems he'd have to wed a space alien to make the papers here, Matt sorely misses the adulation he gets at home, especially from female fans. "They line up sometimes for hours in big crowds to see us," he says wistfully. "It's a thrill." Given a chance, he believes, American audiences will become just as thrilling. "We'll be around a long time," he says. "We want to be successful. We're very ambitious, outgoing and talented." And not shy about saying so.

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