— CONCERT REVIEW:
With a signature blend of catchy pop hooks, California surf-rock guitar riffs, punk-attitude lyrics and girl-group harmonies, The Go-Go’s have made a lasting impression in the music world. Thirty-eight years after forming in 1978, the all-female pop/rock band bid adieu to the touring life with a homecoming and final concert on their “Going, Going, Gone: The Farewell Tour,” Aug. 30, 2016 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, before a packed and enthusiastic crowd.
“We wanted to end it where we started — in Los Angeles,” Go-Go’s lead guitarist/keyboardist Charlotte Caffey said.
Best known for timeless-and-infectious radio-friendly songs, like “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips are Sealed,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels,” The Go-Go’s have decided to stop touring, but said they are not opposed to performing one-off concerts in the future.
The legendary band has already cemented their place in rock ‘n’ roll history as the first and only (even in 2016) all-female band to both write their own songs and play their own instruments on an album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart; which they accomplished with their 1981 debut album, “Beauty and the Beat.”
For their “final” concert, they pranced on stage to Grand Funk’s 1973 rock anthem, “We’re an American Band,” playing in the background. Rhythm guitarist/vocalist Jane Wiedlin, sporting neon-blue hair, chimed in with the lyrics: “Come on, dudes; let’s get it on!” And with that proclamation, drummer Gina Schock kicked off the beat as the band dived right into the smash summertime anthem, “Vacation,” the hit title song from their 1982 album.
Near the beginning of the 19-song set — with about one-third of the songs from the “Beauty and the Beat” album, lead singer Belinda Carlisle said: “It’s the last night of our Farewell Tour,” which got collective yells of “No!” from the audience. “We’re going to be doing songs from past four decades; it’s scary but true.”
While some would say the The Go-Go’s prime time was 1981-1984 when they released three albums before breaking up, followed by a long hiatus until reuniting in 1990, Carlisle’s breakout solo career in 1986 — with continued global success even through today as the face of The Go-Go’s — has helped keep the band’s memory and music alive. Meanwhile, The Go-Go’s have toured regularly since 1999 as well. The band’s farewell set also included a rockin’ version of Carlisle’s debut hit single, “Mad About You.”
Die-hard Go-Go’s fans also appreciated the band playing several album tracks like “Insincere,” from the band’s last studio album, 2001’s “God Bless The Go-Go’s.” The song’s lyrics include the repeated phrase, “Have a nice life,” as a tongue-in-cheek castoff in ending a relationship, but the song had an added meaning as Carlisle waved good-bye to the audience when singing those words.
The Go-Go’s also delved into their roots, as the band was part of the emerging 1970s Los Angeles punk-rock scene before developing into a pop/rock group. “Holy moly! I can’t believe it’s really been 38 years! And it all started a few miles from here in Hollywood,” Wiedlin said. “1978. Go-Go’s. Punk rock. Not kidding; we really were punk rock and to prove it, we would like to do a couple songs we used to do in the ‘70s — and we would like to dedicate it to all you old punk rockers out there!” For the mini punk-rock set, they performed hard-driving guitars and fast drum beats on “Screaming” and “Fun with Ropes,” which Wiedlin described as “a little composition about bondage.”
Throughout the show, band members reminisced. Lead guitarist/keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, positioned at her usual stage-right post, remarked: “I wish I could count the times I looked to my left and there they were — my girls — and very bad ass!”
Other highlights included two “Cool” songs: They performed the 1983 New Wave hit “Cool Places,” originally recorded by the band Sparks with Wieldlin, but transformed into a concert duet between Wiedlin and Carlisle — with both of them dancing and criss-crossing the stage.
For The Go-Go’s audience-participation song — an upbeat and retro-hip cover of The Capitols’ 1966 hit “Cool Jerk” — Carlisle choose a dozen lucky fans to go on stage for their last chance to dance alongside the band — turning the performance into a dance party (which this writer was lucky to be picked to join the stage party!)
The regular portion of the set ended with extended jam sessions as the band performed a double-whammy of their biggest hits: “Our Lips are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.”
The first encore began with what may be an odd choice for a cover song — Miley Cyrus’ gargantuan hit, “Wrecking Ball” — but The Go-Go’s turned the rockin’ tune into a haunting, acoustic power ballad that showcased Carlisle’s strong vocals — and how much she has evolved into a songstress; followed by the energetic, toe-tapping “Get Up and Go.”
After coming back on stage for the second encore and final tune, Wieldlin declared: “Last tour, last show, last song. Thank you for 38 years of support” — and then Caffey started jamming on the keyboards to start “Head Over Heels,” with its appropriate lyrics for the finale: “Been running so long, I’ve nearly lost all track of time, in every direction ...”
Sadly, one person missing from The Go-Go’s final concert was bassist Kathy Valentine, who had been a core member of the band for every album, but she left the band in 2013 due to irreconcilable differences. Abby Travis has been the band’s touring bassist since Valentine’s departure, and Travis adequately jammed on stage alongside the The Go-Go’s — now a quartet.
Decades before female pop stars adopted a “girl power” mantra and long before the existence of the all-female Lilith Fair music festival, The Go-Go’s were trailblazers, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. Though they have decided to stop touring, the musical prowess of the band members — now in their late 50s and early 60s — displayed at their farewell concert show they still got the beat — and this is hopefully only a farewell for now.
— The Go-Go’s setlist: Final concert of their “Going, Going, Gone: The Farewell Tour” at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles; Aug. 30, 2016
How Much More
Mad About You
Fun with Ropes
Skidmarks on My Heart
La La Land
Our Lips are Sealed
We Got the Beat
Get Up and Go
Head Over Heels