Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Last night, the music of one of punk's finest female trailblazing bands transported their OC fans back to the '80s one last time before leaving the stage for good. Before the GoGo's took the stage, Grand Funk Railroad's “We're an American Band” began blaring from the hall's sound system. A figure in a shimmery-gold hoodie entered and a roar went up, everyone was already standing never to sit back down. Belinda Carlisle threw off the jacket and the rest of the GoGo's came to our town to help us party it down for their second-to-last gig on the “GOing, GOing, GONE Farewell Tour.”
The band's notorious wit washed over the crowd as they opened their set with “Vacation.” So not only are they coming to town, but it's a vacation. Right away, the GoGo's reminded us that they're still masters of their music and the venue definitely did their sound justice. The guitars are still searing and the rhythm (which was extra potent thanks to their amazing touring bassist Abby Travis) still compelled us to dance nonstop. Carlisle skimmed the stage throughout, graceful, moving so she could play off her band mates or somehow connect with each fan in the place.
Charlotte Caffey's guitar solo on “Tonight” was mournful yet razory. But the creepy-crawly, sixties surf sound she had on the intro to “This Town” off Beauty and the Beat gave us shivers. And all the time Carlisle sang about how glamorous the town is and you'd like to live here if you could, Caffey's lead continued to haunt, reminiscent of 1981 when that debut album came out, when we all slam-danced and went to shows and ran wild as if we were sure that world nuclear annihilation was imminent. Meanwhile, their songs keep rushing on and the dancing never stops.
After the layered harmonies built up to soar on “Mad About You,” Jane Wiedlin with her vibrant blue hair took over MC role and said, seeing as how the GoGo's started back in 1978, in the days of the original LA punk scene, and just to prove it they were going to do two songs from those Masque days that never made it on a record. At least I think that's what she said. She invited us to maybe make “little, peaceful moshpits,” then they careened into a fierce song, couldn't understand a word until the very abrupt end with “Who cares!?” Carlisle said the next one was about bondage, and I'm guessing it was written at the Canterbury apartment building where half the scene lived at the time. Read Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk for more tales from that particular universe.
“Pity the poor guy who dated a GoGo,” cracked Carlisle, “you'd get a song written about you.” To which Caffey said, yeah, we should put out a whole record of hate. But they were kidding, because this show was a love fest. Fans were invited onstage for “Cool Jerk,” though none could do the jerk. The song was controlled mayhem, as Gina Schock delivered a drum solo that frenzied up the dancing onstage and for the thousands out front. Schock came down off her platform to say she was glad “Cool Jerk” had had no casualties, no broken instruments, but mostly to thank everyone for the blast the band were having now and for the past 38 years.
“Our Lips Are Sealed” followed by a ferocious “We Got the Beat” ended the show on a rather jubilant note and the GoGo's blew kisses as they exited. Lots of noise ensued with much jumping up and down to get the encore going but not before Caffey gave a shoutout to the Cuckoo's Nest and was answered with screams, especially from yours truly who saw the band on numerous bills there, one when they and the Blasters opened for Black Flag, most likely during the presidential election that we feared Reagan would win. “Get Up & Go” and “Head Over Heels,” during which Wiedlin had a solo on a not-seen-up-til-then shimmering silver guitar that seemed to be made of out of stars, ended the vacation. I can't imagine the Farewell tour's final show at the Greek could top this one, but it probably will.
Lisa Black proofreads the dead-tree edition of the Weekly and writes about the arts and South County beaches. Her OC roots go back to the Cuckoo’s Nest but she left to create original theater on four continents, then returned to bodysurf small waves.