VIENNA, VA — The Go-Go’s returned to Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, barely ducking a stormy weather event but with a derecho still brewing amongst its members.
For the past three years, the band has definitely been on a mission to deliver its brand of L.A. surf power punk ditties to young and old fans that made the Go-Go’s the darlings of the 1980s music scene.
With the storms passed, drummer Gina Schock took the stage and spotlight to launch into “Get up and Go” from the 1982 album “Vacation” and was soon accompanied by a bass player that bore no resemblance to the band’s core member Kathy Valentine.
It appears the girls are having a big legal spat over Miss Valentine’s role in the band and, at this point in their careers, I cannot think of anything sillier.
So fans watching the Go Go’s got four fifths or the Go-Go – Miss Schock, Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin with touring bassist Abby Travis (who filled in for Miss Valentine last year).
Abby, along with big fuzzy sounding bass, was allowed to stand at the center stage mic all night (just as Miss Valentine did for decades) and with a bit of channeling from Derek Smalls actually gave the band a renewed sense of punk urgency. How’s that for a statement to Miss Valentine?
Much like the last time I saw the band at Wolf Trap in 2011, the girls rifled through their hits including “Vacation,” “This Town,” “Our Lips Are Sealed” and Miss Carlisle’s “Mad About You” for a roughly 70 minutes set and really played with the energy of 20-year olds not 50 somethings.
Also, let’s reference rhythm guitarist and creative force Jane Wiedlin. In 2011, she reminded me of crazy old aunt Jane. Last night, the audience saw a rejuvenated and sexy musician, wearing Lt. Uhura’s uniform no less, and spinning like a top many times during night.
The center of the set was where most of the evening’s magic was crafted with a steamy slow build from “Automatic” to “Fading Fast” and a garage band inspired romp through the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”
Now, let’s discuss Baltimore’s Gina Schock again. Not only is her resiliency as one of rock’s premiere thumpers to be admired but also she does a mean impression of Borscht Belt comedian Shecky Greene. Her wacky introductions of other band members at the end of the set was classic.
I am also now convinced that Gina is the secret sauce of the Go-Go’s. This lady keeps the songs together with tasty fills and keeps the band on track like a conductor for the Philharmonic.
One last garage band moment saw a seamless blend of “We Got the Beat” and KISS’ anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Miss Travis pulled a transitional bass run between songs that appeared to even surprise her.
Although Miss Valentine will be missed, I’m liking the re-energized Go-Go’s.
However, the best surprise of the evening was a 60-minute set of memories from the melodic punk kings The Psychedelic Furs.
The last time I saw vocalist Richard Butler and his crew, I tripped him as he went on stage at the legendary New York club CBGB back in the mid 1990s.
I’m fairly certain Mr. Butler has forgotten the incident. Last night he and his four other band mates (bassist Tim Butler, guitarist Rich Good, saxophonist Mars Williams and keyboardist Amanda Kramer) never stumbled as they worked through such 1980s anthems as “Pretty in Pink,” “Ghost in You,” “Love My Way,” “Heartbreak Beat” and “Heaven.”
It was a flawless, well-paced show with the band working through 10 songs. Mr. Butler’s bass playing brother Tim walked the stage like a transfixed Frankenstein’s monster as he mouthed the lyrics to fans while the raspy, bespeckled singer slithered about giving the googly eyes to female admirers.
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