Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ladies Gone Mild

The night I’d been anticipating all summer finally came on Thursday. My first trip to the Greek Theatre to see the Go-Go’s on Belinda Carlisle’s birthday. It was truly the most anticipated day in my year. I’ve seen them at least twice before and I’ve seen Belinda Carlisle solo three times, so it wasn’t so much that the concert was the main event, it was more the total experience. The 30th anniversary of Beauty and the Beat, one of my favorite albums of all time, in Los Angeles on Belinda’s birthday. It was a perfect Go-Go’s storm.

I want to just say up front that I had a great time. I’m really glad I went. If I had to do it again knowing what I know now, I’d get even better tickets than the ones I got this time. The experience was amazing. And I finally got to be one of those people shooting video at a concert with my iPhone. What else could I ask for? So, there you have it. Perfect night.

Now, let’s get down to business. As stated earlier, I’ve seen them in concert before. You’re not going for amazing pyrotechnics. There’s not going to be a ton of costume changes. No elaborate dance moves. And let’s be honest, Belinda Carlisle would not have taken the American Idol crown from Kelly Clarkson if she had been in that competition. I know what you’re thinking here – the bar is set pretty low. Exactly. That’s why it was slightly disconcerting to me that they still managed to trip over it.

This is the Ladies Gone Wild tour. They’ve made a big deal on their website and on Facebook all year about the Beauty and the Beat anniversary. Would it have killed them to put on face cream and some towels for their entrance. I’m not saying don’t have clothes on under them. In fact, it might have been even funnier if they’d come out wrapped in towels over their clothes. Instead, Belinda came out wearing a shiny blouse that I think my mother used to wear for special occasions like family birthdays.

And of course because of the 30th anniversary, the song they came out on stage to was not even from that album. Everyone loves Vacation, so it was all good. But really, did anyone think this whole thing out all. We all woo’ed and sang along. I shot video, although most of it is not that great so I’m going to use someone else’s youtube video for this post.

After Vacation, they went into a pair of the “album tracks” from B&B – Tonite and How Much More. After that we got Get Up and Go and I was thinking that if this place weren’t filled with hardcore Go-Go fans, a few of them just might. At this point, my friend and I decided that maybe the sound system was terrible. Maybe it was, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the whole problem.

A little banter from Kathy Valentine and then they made my only prediction of the evening come true, although a lot earlier in the show than I thought. My friend had asked me on the way to the show if they would do any of Belinda’s solo music. I said that they wouldn’t touch most of it, but they almost always do Mad About You (I assumed because Charlotte Caffey wrote it, but actually she didn’t – she and Jane Weidlin did do background vocals on it though). I was pretty excited because I love that song. Now, I don’t know what happened here. I’m not even going to hazard a guess. Just listen for yourselves. And let me assure you that this is exactly what it sounded like from my seat.

Perhaps I will hazard a guess for you, since I don’t want you to wonder if I’m insane for being a fan. This tour started Memorial Day weekend. They’ve been on the road all summer. She’s 53 AND she’s had a hard life. So I’m cutting her some slack, but I also want to be clear that I’m not delusional. I was fully present for what was unfolding.

Finally, six songs in they did a B&B song that I think is really worthy of the album – Lust to Love. I couldn’t find a video of this one but it was right about now that Belinda started to hit a couple notes. I think at that point I was more relieved than anything. I think it would have broken my heart if she had continued to sound that way all night. In the weirdest portion of the evening, they segued from Lust to Love into a cover of Mother’s Little Helper (Rolling Stones). Honestly, if my friend hadn’t told me what she was singing I’m quite sure I’d never have recognized it.

After that, things took a big upward turn. The couplet of Automatic and Fading Fast was easily my favorite part of the show. I must not be the only one that thought it was doubly good because both clips I found on youtube were of both songs together.

The mood picked up considerably from there. So much so that when they did Cool Jerk – a song I almost hate – next, I totally enjoyed it. It seemed like the most fun they had all night. Then Cool Places. I guess it was their cool phase.

There were two things I was really looking forward to on this much anticipated evening, but only one of them was I thinking about when I bought the tickets. And that was being in Hollywood watching them perform This Town, which they wrote about Hollywood – their town. Remember how at the beginning of this post I said it was a perfect night. Moments like this were the reason why. I am listening to the performance as I’m writing this and I’m getting giddy all over again.

If I was disappointed about anything during the evening, it was that they only did one song from God Bless the Go-Go’s. Yes, it was an obscure album for almost everyone. But if you were in that theater watching them, you knew (and probably loved) that album. And if they were only going to do one song, I wish it had been either Apology or Daisy Chain instead of Unforgiven. But it’s a small quibble.

If you know anything about the Go-Go’s and their music, you can probably guess at least three and maybe four or five of their last six songs. They were, in order: Our Lips are Sealed, Skidmarks on my Heart and We Got the Beat in the main portion of the show. The encore went: Beatnik Beach, Fun with Ropes** and Head over Heels.

The asterisks are because I think Fun with Ropes would be the outlier in that group. Apparently it was from their days as a “punk rock” band. The thing is, it sounds so much like the rest of their music that I can’t imagine they could have been surprised when the punk audiences started pelting them with trash and beer cans while they were performing. And in this instance, I want to be clear that I’m not casting aspersions on the song or even on their performance of it. I’m just saying that if you went to a punk rock concert in 1978 and what you got was Belinda Carlisle, well you might have felt you had been misled. But don’t take my word for it. You be the judge.

I realize there’s no way to read this review and not think that the concert was bad, but that really wasn’t how I experienced it. I knew why I wanted to go and I went in with my eyes (and ears) open. And I think if you asked most of the people that were there, you’d find that a good time was had by all.

Finally, even though there is better video of this on youtube, I’m going to leave you with my video of all of us singing happy birthday to Belinda.* Because once I realized I was going to the show on her birthday, getting to sing to her was the other thing I was really excited about. Happy birthday Babe! Let me know the next time you or the whole band are touring and I’ll be there.

*Pay no attention to the idiot WOO’ing into my phone. I have no idea who that was. What an embarrassment.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that, while my love for "Mad About You" is as, well... mad, I do love it. That said, the version that I heard is nothing like the album version, which is probably good, since they were doing a Go-Gos show and the version that they did do sounds like it belongs on a Go-Gos album. That's just my opinion.

    When you took me to see them about five years ago, I had a good time, despite the fact that I was almost completely physically incapacitated. It doesn't rank anywhere near the top ten shows I've ever seen, but it was a good show for a group that, for all intents and purposes, hasn't existed for nearly 25 years.

    Finally, I'm not going to give Carlisle any slack. She's supposed to be a star, so she needs to act (and dress) the part. Do you really think her life was ever harder than Madonna's, just because Madonna didn't succumb to pressure or drugs or any negative outside influences? Madonna had to face all of that stuff and, in the end, she survived to be a bigger star because she worked harder and tried harder, which is why Madonna's life is harder than Carlisle's. And still is.

    But whatever. We see this all the time. Stars come and go. Only a few live to be a legend and most of them are scarred by the process. I'm glad Carlisle is smart enough to be with the Go-Gos, which gives her the chance to perform, which is probably all she ever wanted to do.