June 3 at the storied
Irving Plaza, the ladies went wild – as did a full house of fans.
Text/Photos By David Chiu
Though primarily known throughout their career as a L.A.
band, the Go-Go’s have a special connection with New York City: it was in the
Big Apple where the band recorded their their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, thirty years ago. As lead singer Belinda
Carlisle recalled in her 2010 memoir, Lips
Unsealed, she and her bandmates stayed at the Wellington Hotel on Seventh
Avenue around the time of the album’s recording. “I don’t even remember when we
worked,” she wrote. “But we did – and we had fun. We were proably relaxed
because we had such a wealth of good material. With what I know now after
having recorded so many albums, I realize there’s nothing like that first
And what a first album it was: Beauty and the Beat hit Number One on the Billboard charts and yielded the classic hits “Our Lips Are Sealed”
and “We Got the Beat.” Three decades later since its release, the Go-Go’s
returned to New York City this past Friday as part of their latest summer tour,
titled “Ladies Gone Wild.” Had they performed live last year, it might have
been a bittersweet affair as the Go-Go’s were set to embark on their “Farewell
Tour”; however, it was postponed due to guitarist Jane Wiedlin’s knee injury
from a hiking accident. Fortunately
there was no talk of goodbyes from Friday’s night show at an extremely packed
Irving Plaza that saw an appreciative crowd witness a celebration of the
Go-Go’s punk-pop past.
The band kicked off the set appropriately enough with the
summer anthem “Vacation,” which got the show off to a rocking start. Not
surprisingly, given its special milestone, a majority of the set list drew from
Beauty and the Beat, which was
recently reissued. It included the punk-ish rockers “Tonite” and “Skidmarks on
My Heart” and the haunting-sounding number “Automatic” along with “Lust to
Love” and “This Town” And of course,
“Our Lips Are Sealed” and the driving “We Got the Beat” were naturally the
hightlights of the show.
The others songs from the set list drew from the Go-Go’s
other albums: the rocking “Get Up and Go” from Vacation; “The Whole World Lost Its Head” from Return to the Valley to the Go-Go’s, and “Unforgiven,” off of the
band’s last studio album, 2001’s God
Bless the Go-Go’s. There were also a
couple of non-Go-Go’s songs performed: a rocking version of Carlisle’s
1986 breezy solo pop hit “Mad About You,” and the New Wave-ish “Cool Places,”
Wiedlin’s 1983 collaboration with Sparks. The band also did a punk-like cover
of The Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper.”
The encore briefly
went into surf music mode with a performance of
“Beatnik Beach,” followed by the brilliant rocker “Head Over Heels”
that displayed guitarist Charlotte Caffey’s rollicking keyboard playing. The
band came back for a second encore that featured a performance of “Fun with
Ropes,” a song that, according to Carlisle’s memoir, didn’t end up on Beauty and the Beat.
Having been together on-and-off for over 30 years, the
musical chemistry among the band members still sparkled. Carlisle remained the
focal point with her ageless voice. Caffey, a central part of the Go-Go’s sound
with her songwriting, showed some very impressive lead guitar playing that
doesn’t perhaps get mentioned often. Gina Schock’s drumming provided the
aggression that both complemented and offset the band’s poppy side. Her
co-horts, bassist Kathy Valentine and rhythm guitarist Wiedlin advanced the
band’s attack in the rhythm department.
In addition to the music, the group’s engaging personality
remained engaging as evidenced by the humorous banter in between songs and Schock’s warm introduction of her bandmates
near the end of the show. And there was no doubt that a certain level of fun
was brought on by the quirky Wiedlin, who later came out on stage wearing a wig
decorated with what appeared to be flashing lights.
Based on their recent New York City performance, the Go-Go’s
haven’t worn out their stay in the music business given the many fans who were
in attendance at Irving. Safe to say, the reception to their body of work in
the 30 years since Beauty and the Beat should put any discussion about hanging it up to rest.