August 30, 2016
The Go-Go’s formed in the name of punk-rock fun and frolic in L.A. almost four decades ago. But somewhere along the way they became a pop music phenomenon, chart-topping trailblazers who expressed themselves in words, music and personal style, all on their own terms. Shockingly, they are still the only all-female group to top the Billboard charts by writing and playing their own songs.
Thirty-eight years later, at the momentous final show of their Farewell Tour — which could’ve only taken place right here in their hometown of Los Angeles — they proved why their shoes are still so hard to fill after all these years.
Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock and Abby Travis (who took bassist Kathy Valentine’s spot several years ago) performed an exuberant set packed with all the expected hits last night at the Greek Theatre. But it was not without some stellar surprises, too.
to The ladies have had their share of personal dramas over the years, which led to breakups and reunions in the past. Along the way, both Carlisle and Wiedlin enjoyed some solo success on the pop charts. Last night they nodded to their impact not only as a group but also as individuals, offering up Carlisle’s “Mad About You” and Wiedlin’s “Cool Places” (with Sparks). Both tracks fit in seamlessly with The Go-Go’s' buoyant, hook-heavy hits, songs that still feel as fresh and fervent as they did in the '80s.
It was kinda pure kismet that the band was able to write such potent pop-rock hits to begin with. When they started as teenage punkettes in Hollywood (not far from the Greek, as Wiedlin pointed out) they didn’t know how to play instruments or write music, but something just clicked. Their collective cool, creative influences and charisma made for an undeniable chemistry that transcended the underground scene and made sense during the burgeoning “new wave” era, when women were expressing themselves in audacious new ways.
With their flamboyant fashion and emotive yet tough songs about love, lust and life from a female perspective, the band’s influence cannot be overstated. Pop divas like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper would release their debut albums two years after The Go-Go’s' Beauty and the Beat came out in ’81, and it’s not a stretch to say that, despite the different genres, there’s a lot of the same moxie and style there.
Within the punk scene, The Go-Go's started off as more of a novelty, and their mainstream success cost them a bit of cred back in the day. But last night — and throughout this entire farewell tour — the ladies reminded everyone where they came from, dusting off some old gems from their early years, including “Screaming” and “Fun With Ropes,” which Wiedlin introduced as a song about bondage. These lesser-known tracks offered a more raucous pace and feel following a nice dose from their debut (“How Much More,” “Tonight,” L.A. anthem “This Town”) and the show’s giddy opening number, “Vacation.”
The ladies are all in their 50s but look and sound pretty much the same as they did when they started. Carlisle has transformed her style the most, donning a somewhat conservative pink and black floral top (the others went for looks that were much more rocker-chick), but her vocals retained their signature sass and tone even when they weren’t perfect on every number. She always sounded as if she was singing with a smile on her face, mostly because she was, and last night was no exception. Wiedlin’s backing vocals and strumming were ebullient as ever, while Caffey’s fretwork led the way on many faves when she wasn’t killing it on the keyboards. Shock and Travis’ grooves were steady and soulful as called for, especially on rhythm-driven cuts such as mega-hit “We Got the Beat” and their longtime favorite cover, The Capitols' “Cool Jerk.”
They invited a bunch of people up onstage to dance with them during the latter number, and when they brought it “down real low” and had everyone sit or lie on the floor, Carlisle laughingly referenced “that commercial, ‘I’ve fallen and I can't get up.’” But she got up just fine, and truly, the band’s energy level never betrayed their birthdates. Before the final encore song, “Head Over Heels,” they even showed their abilities with new music, reinterpreting a modern pop hit with a surprising and stunning take on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and following it up with their own peppy “Get Up and Go.” Both were fitting for the bittersweet goodbye show. The Go-Go’s are going out on top and on their own terms, just as they began.
Set list below.
How Much More
Mad About You
Fun With Ropes
Cool Jerk (The Capitols cover)
Skidmarks on My Heart
La La Land
Our Lips Are Sealed
We Got the Beat
Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus cover)
Get Up and Go
Head Over Heels