Went-Went

(Originally published on MOLI 2/12/8)

I try not to indulge in nostalgia (though you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the shows I’ve been reviewing here). But why else would one go to a Go-Go’s concert? Unlike Iggy Pop or Deborah Harry, the 1980s California garage-poppers have not kept up a body of new work since their heyday. So I hereby admit: Beauty and the Beat was in heavy rotation on my turntable when I was a purple-haired misfit in a Midwestern small town. Seeing as how I never saw them then, or since, I went to the Jackie Gleason Theater (currently known as the Fillmore Miami Beach at) February 8 hoping to hear “We’ve Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” etc.

Wish granted.

Written off by sexist twats as gimmicky fluff, the Go-Go’s were/are skilled musicians with a twisted sense of humor and a gift for sly pop hooks that every indie rocker live or dead — including Elvis Costello — would trade a lifetime supply of overpriced, oversized spectacles for. Yes, on songs like “Tonite” and “Vacation,” they celebrate girlish pleasures — but with wicked glee. They dressed Friday not in candy-colored miniskirts (unlike some of the middle-aged fans in the audience) but all in black. Individual players have venerable punk pedigrees: Textones, Edie Massey, Germs (almost).

Unfortunately, I still haven’t really seen the Go-Go’s: Guitarist Jane Wiedlin left the tour because, as bassist Kathy Valentine announced, “her mom’s dying.” Replacement Eve Monsees laid down a couple pretty gnarly, noisy solos. Mostly, it was Charlotte Caffey who played bandleader — and singer Belinda Carlisle who pulled a bit of a diva intro, taking the stage after an instrumental number by her bandmates, as if she’s James Brown or something. Yeah, Belinda’s a stone fox and a really great singer. But the amazing thing about the Go-Go’s is they were the first all-female rock band (i.e., with female instrumentalists, not only a vocal group) to have a major impact on the charts.

So seeing them, incomplete or not, wasn’t just about reliving the past: It was an act of honoring history. And great fun.

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