HOLMDEL, N.J. '80s new-wave pop stars the Go-Go's played with the vigor of a hungry young band but sounded like a seasoned-veteran unit, playing their hits and introducing two new songs Sunday night during a midpoint stop on their summer reunion tour.
Performing at the PNC Bank Arts Center, the original lineup of the all-girl quintet that emerged from L.A. punk clubs tore through 75 minutes of upbeat rockers, including their show-opening summer favorite, "Vacation," highlighted by lead singer Belinda Carlisle's sweet, shimmering vocals.
"It's been quite awhile since we played here, about 16 years ago," Carlisle said onstage. "We're gonna do a number from our first album, Beauty and the Beat. It doesn't seem like 20 years ago."
The band then played "How Much More" (RealAudio excerpt), with Carlisle, guitarists Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, and bassist Kathy Valentine all shaking their heads and shouting the chorus in unison: "How much more can I take, before I go crazy, oh yeah!"
Though they are touring in support of this year's VH1 Behind the Music: Go-Go's Collection, the majority of the songs the Go-Go's played were from their debut LP. The dramatic "This Town" was a highlight, as the women's voices were in perfect harmony on the chorus. "This town is our town, it is so glamorous, bet you'd live here if you could and be one of us," they sang. (Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns VH1.)
Still The Center Of Attention
With perfect features and shiny blond hair offset by a black bodysuit, Carlisle was the center of attention. She constantly swung her arms around her curvaceous hips as she snapped her fingers and accepted bouquets of roses from the crowd.
During "Cool Jerk," from 1982's Vacation, Carlisle offered a rap sounding very much like Deborah Harry on Blondie's "Rapture" about Go-Go's drummer Gina Schock.
"It's Gina Schock, she really rocks, she's got the beat," Carlisle rapped before ending with an indecipherable comment about Schock's "ti--ies" that likely displeased the parents of the many elementary-school-age children who were in the audience.
Wiedlin, sporting black hair with blue streaks and a red guitar, introduced two songs including "Apology" which are slated to appear on a spring LP of new material titled Vision of Nowness. It will be the band's first studio album since 1984, the year they split.
The new songs were much in the vein of the smash hits that introduced the band in 1981, "Our Lips Are Sealed" (RealAudio excerpt) and "We Got the Beat" (RealAudio excerpt), which ended Sunday's set. Valentine, clad in hot pants, and Wiedlin hopped around the stage with their guitars during the former tune.
Following loud applause, the Go-Go's returned for an encore featuring the infectious "Can't Stop the World" and a full-throttle cover of the rock 'n' roll classic "Let's Have a Party," which the band included on Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's (1994).
"My sister wanted to see the Go-Go's," said 11-year-old Farmingdale, N.J., resident Amanda Kees of her 6-year-old sibling, who was dancing wildly through the show. "They're OK, but I like *NSync and Christina Aguilera."
Never A Bomb From The B-52s
Also causing uninhibited dancing in the aisles were raucous new-wave popsters the B-52's, who are accompanying the Go-Go's on tour. They opened the show Sunday, though the two bands are trading time slots from show to show.
The outlandish, fun-loving band performed under four large, white cones that hung from the ceiling and between one male and one female go-go dancer, who also performed with the Go-Go's, perched on large speakers. Singer Fred Schneider exclaimed, "We have landed," before leading the band into the bopping "Dance This Mess Around," from their eponymous 1979 debut LP. The female go-go dancer flopped up and down in a green dress designed like a three-layer wedding cake, while her male counterpart moved suggestively in sequined pants.
"Here's an old one from the treasure chest of time," said singer Cindy Wilson, who was wearing a red outfit featuring a flying-saucer-shaped hat. "From the magma pit of time," Schneider added before the band launched into "Lava" (RealAudio excerpt), also from their first album, which dominated the show.
Schneider, wearing an orange shirt with black pants decorated with a white floral design, played a multicolored xylophone and threw a large, foam pineapple around the stage. He stood next to red-haired vocalist Kate Pierson, who sang lead on the hits "Roam" during which yellow lights flashed around the amphitheater and the set-ending "Love Shack," which had little kids jumping up and down in their seats.
Guitarist Keith Strickland anchored the B-52's during the encore of their signature tune, "Rock Lobster" (RealAudio excerpt), which featured the three principal vocalists shrieking and running around the stage. For the lyric "It wasn't a rock; it was a rock lobster," Schneider substituted, "It wasn't a rock; it was G.W. Bush!"
It was exactly what their audience expected. "I came to see the B-52's because they're good musicians, but they're quirky and they don't take themselves too seriously," 30-year-old Brian Beauchamp of Queens, N.Y., said.