Lou Grant might hate them for it, but the Go-Go’s have spunk – plenty of it, even three decades into a career that peaked in the ‘80s, weathered solo detours, in-fighting and personal problems.
Back on tour for the “Ladies Gone Wild” tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Beauty and the Beat,” their debut album, the quintet of sparkplug guitarist Jane Wiedlin; quietly precise keyboardist/guitarist Charlotte Caffey; beauty queen singer Belinda Carlisle; and the anchor of the group’s sound, drummer Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine; charmed a small but fun-seeking crowd at Chastain Park Amphitheatre Tuesday night.
From the first metronomic thumps of Schock’s floor tom – a hallmark of her playing – for the opening “Vacation,” fans surged to their feet and stayed there throughout the 80-minute show.
Though these ladies – renowned for being the first all-female group to play their own instruments, write their own songs and top the charts – scaled the charts throughout the ‘80s with a string of sudsy pop singalongs, their roots have always leaned toward melodic punk.
“How Much More” and “Tonite,” both lesser known songs from “Beauty,” showcased the band’s crunchy power pop side, while “This Town” demonstrated their knack for sweeping pop-rock.
Throughout the show, it appeared that the days of inter-band sniping and “drama” referenced by Wiedlin had been shelved, even if only for the time spent on stage.
Wiedlin in particular seemed to enjoy herself as she ran in circles and, with Carlisle, humorously bopped across the stage to exhibit some classic ‘80s dance moves. Clearly, last year’s knee surgeries after Wiedlin’s scary hiking accident have healed well.
Carlisle, always the focal point of the group, gracefully swung her hands and her hips to the music, her unique voice sounding particularly husky (in a good way) on a Go-Go-fied version of her solo hit, “Mad About You,” which benefited from Schock’s busy floor tom work and dual guitars (for the trivia minded: Andy Taylor of Duran Duran played the guitar solo on the studio version of the song).
While the ladies’ rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” was musically tough – and a well-chosen cover – Carlisle’s vocals warbled a bit, a hitch quickly rectified by a featherweight fun “Cool Jerk.”
By the time the show arrived at “Our Lips Are Sealed,” a song that still sounds like sunshine, and “We Got the Beat,” steered by Valentine and Schock’s driving rhythmic intro, the audience was completely flushed with nostalgia.
Never a bad state to be in.
Earlier in the evening, the Tom Tom Club, the early ‘80s offshoot of Talking Heads, performed a 45-minute set of intricately crafted New Wave-pop songs that quickly reminded of their originality and quirkiness.
It’s almost impossible to believe bassist Tina Weymouth is nearly 61. Not only does she still play tremendously, laying down a sinewy groove with drummer husband Chris Frantz, but she emits an impressive youthful spark.
An array of congas, keyboards and a DJ (“Kid Ginseng”) decorated songs such as “The Man with the Four Way Hips” and “She’s Dangerous,” while a version of the Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River,” sung by guitarist/cowbell maven Victoria Clamp, chugged appropriately.
Of course the show’s highlight was an extended rendition of Tom Tom Club’s most recognizable song, “Genius of Love,” filled with its trademark “ribbet”-ing keyboard chirps and modernized with some turntable scratching from Kid Ginseng.
But it was “Wordy Rappinghood” – the band’s 1981 dance hit that is still reminiscent of Blondie – that might have best exemplified their kooky charm.