Monday, July 28, 2014

Bangles 101

Drummer Brad Elvis joined The Bangles on two of their more popular songs.

At one point at City Winery last night, The Bangles joked that they should have brought along a slide show. The concert, the first of two sold-out gigs at the Chicago venue, did provide an extensive history of the band, with Susanna Hoffs, Debbie Peterson, and Vicki Peterson (Michael Steele departed over 10 years ago) sharing memories of their earliest recording days. Maybe they were inspired to uncork their vintage material by the custom-made bottles of Bangles Wine City Winery had for sale.

Hoffs and the Peterson sisters, along with bassist Derrick Anderson, entered to a recording of “My Own Time”* by their brethren in L.A.’s Paisley Underground, The Three O’Clock. The opening number “Hazy Shade Of Winter” set the pace for a band that has always had more to offer than a handful of Top 40 singles and still performs with a fountain-of-youth intensity. The harmonies were consistently impressive, whether on early LP cuts like “Live” or on the title track from The Bangles’ 2011 release, Sweetheart Of The Sun.

Other than “Manic Monday,” the first half of the concert concentrated on lesser-known deep tracks like “Some Dreams Come True,” “James,” and “Angels Don’t Fall In Love.” They went back to their very first single, the independently released, “Getting Out Of Hand,” and played all three tracks from their  1982 self-titled EP. “In Your Room” had a grittier feel than one might remember from the seductive rock video, and an extended version of “Hero Takes A Fall” morphed into a jam session that included the riff from Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.”

While introducing a sterling cover of the Alex Chilton-penned “September Gurls,” Vicki Peterson suggested that anyone not familiar with his band Big Star should, “get yourself educated.” She added,  You’ll be glad you did.” The Bangles also romped through the classic garage rock of “Open Your Eyes” by The Nazz, and called upon a popular local musician to help out with the Kimberly Rew composition “Going Down To Liverpool.”** Debbi Peterson joined her sister and Hoffs at the front of the stage, while Brad Elvis from The Romantics and The Handcuffs took over on the drums.

The same lineup was later used for “Walk Like An Egyptian,” which served as the evening’s second and final encore, following a delicately beautiful rendition of “Eternal Flame.” As with every previous Bangles concert I’ve seen since their return in 2000, they seemed to thoroughly enjoy performing on their own terms without interference from a major label. And that’s another important lesson.

*   Originally recorded by The Bee Gees
** Originally recorded  by Katrina And The Waves

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