Writing about The Bangles was my dream since I started TRIPMUZE.COM in December 2015. The first band I fell in love, the first American music I ever listened, the first single (Manic Monday) and album (Different Light) I bought in my life, they were all The Bangles. That was exactly 30 years ago when I was 13. Ever since then, The Bangles has been my most favorite band. I love any type of good music today. I like rock n’ roll, R&B, hip-hop, punk, hard rock, country…but if I didn’t meet with The Bangles, I am sure my music taste would be completely different. The Bangles was the start point and roots of my music influence (Read more story about how I met with The Bangles music at MY MUSIC INFLUENCE).
I am very happy that The Bangles is still active after their reunion in 1999. Now I live in same the United States with The Bangles, I can go to their concerts whenever they are on East Coast tour. The only regret, I couldn’t see a show with Micheal Steele, the previous bassist.
On August 27, 2016, The Bangles returned to East Coast after 2 years interval. They held New York City show at Irving Plaza, a legendary live house with the capacity of 1,025 people in Union Square. That was my forth The Bangles concert I attended after Philadelphia in 2014. The show was completely sold out. That showed The Bangles still maintained high popularity among their fans. In fact, the venue was pretty packed by the time an opening act started their show at 8:00 p.m. More than half of the audience were in their 40s and older, but there were also many younger fans as always.
SUPPORTING ACT: CARDIAC
The opening act was Cardiac, an indie trio from Los Angeles. Although they hadn’t released any album yet, their 30 minutes show was nice. Their dramatic rock was quite impressive. The powerful vocal of Dave DiSarro totally matched with the band’s music. Dave also did a nice stage work kept moving all over the stage aggressively, as well as smooth and fun talks, with his effort to fire up the audiences who didn’t know about the band. Those were what all frontman should do not to make new audience bored. Cardiac’s songs somehow reminded me of good, old Queensryche, the era Geoff Tate was still with the band.
The most significant of their show was the guitarist, Jarod Woznik, who resembled with Lance Bass of NSYNC. His guitar technic was brilliant and upscaled. From bluesy sound to strong bold sound to clean sound, Jarod’s guitar sound always kept the beautiful charm. Jarod had a solo during Cardiac’s performance. The guitar solo is abnormal for a supporting act during a very limited time, but I think he succeeded to receive more attention from the audience. Many of guitar solos by any artist were actually self-satisfaction, boring, and unnecessary, but Jarod’s guitar works entertained and attracted the audience. I felt emotion on his guitar solo. For me, his guitar solo was one of few I’d enjoyed beside Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard. Jarod did more than 3 men’s work for Cardiac’s performance. I witnessed a new guitar hero was born.
The quality of Cardiac’s songs sounded nice (indeed, their music was my type). They even showed a powerful performance of Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin Jack Flash” with the help of Derrick Anderson, the touring bassist of The Bangles. Now, that was what Cardiac would need as soon as possible; a bassist. They didn’t have a bassist and played songs without a bass except for “Jumpin Jack Flash”. Unfortunately, they showed the importance of a bass during their performance. Their overall sound was relatively flat and the reason was obviously the absence of a bassist. I think their sound would be more dynamic and dramatic with a bassist.
Overall, Cardiac did a nice job as a supporting act. Not only they heated up the audience before the main act, but they succeeded to impress the audience. One of the reasons The Bangles’ concert started with a good vibe was Cardiac’s contribution. They also showed their professionalism. Probably nobody knew about the band before the show, but the audience gave a big applaud to Cardiac when they finished. And I certainly recognized Cardiac.
The Bangles showed up to the stage after 30 minutes break. They looked nothing changed in 2 years. They were all beautiful, fit, and ageless. Quite unbelievable that they were actually in their late 50’s.
The Bangles gave the audience a surprise about their song list from the beginning. The first song was “Mary Street”. Probably many fans wouldn’t recognize the song if they didn’t have all The Bangles albums including the latest one. “Mary Street” was on “Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles”, their special album in 2014 collected pre-debuted songs. Twice of The Bangles concerts I attended started with fast driving “Hazy Shade of Winter”, a big hit cover in 1987 that would heat up the audience effectively from the beginning. Their choice of “Mary Street” as the first song was a challenge. The bad thing was I could feel some fans’ confusion although they were excited to see The Bangles. The good thing was “Mary Street” was a catchy uptempo song not bad for opening the show.
That opening song choice was key for their entire show of the night. While The Bangles showed they were returning to their roots on their last tour in 2014, supporting “Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles”, the band expanded their focus on the band’s roots more in the night. No song at all from their first reunion album, “Doll Revolution”. They even didn’t play any song except one of their latest full album, “Sweetheart of the Sun”, released in 2011. They played a few songs from “Sweetheart of the Sun” on their last tour, but no title track, no “Under a Cloud”, no “I’ll Never Be Through You” on that show. Only the song they played from “Sweetheart of the Sun” was “Open My Eyes”, the cover of Nazz. The edgy classic rock n’ roll song in 1960’s was a perfect match with the rest of their setlist mainly from their 1st album, “All Over The Place” in 1984, and pre-debut songs from “Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles”. The band played 8 songs out of 22 songs for the night from “All Over The Place”, which had 11 songs, and 5 songs from “Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles”. More than half of their song list was from the songs in 1984 or before, and the rest were their hit songs after “Different Light” album in 1986.
Don’t get me wrong. Their set list wasn’t disappointing at all. Although “All Over The Place” album sold much less than the following triple platinum “Different Light” and platinum “Everything”, The Bangles’ first album was concentrated with many good songs with a lot of rock energy and vibes than their second and third albums. And those basic rock n’ roll songs never got old. 2-3 minutes songs with kicks and edges ended up the 11 songs album within 32 minutes. That meant the fine rock songs of “All Over The Place” would help their show fast driving and exciting. If The Bangles would pursue “going back to their roots” on their upcoming new album, I am sure that would be a wonderful one with their good songwriting skills.
Most importantly, the musicians with numerous hit songs are always strong at their concerts, and so was The Bangles. The Bangles had many top 10 hits and their signatured songs under their belt. And The Bangles definitely knew how to mix their hit songs with other songs on their set list effectively. After “Manic Monday” they played as their tribute to Prince who wrote the song, “Going Down To Liverpool”, and “September Gurls” on the first half part, the band saved the best for the second half. “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, “If She Knew What She Wants”, “In Your Room”, “Walk Like an Egyptian”, “Eternal Flame”…fans frolicked like they just returned to high school era. Nazz’s hit “Open My Eyes” helped the audience fueled up on the second half. Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson made the whole floor excited by the thrilling guitar solo with “Hero Takes a Fall” before an encore. Debbi Peterson came to the front from her drum set and joined other members to add more fire with an acoustic guitar on “Going Down to Liverpool”, “Walk Like an Egyptian”, and “Eternal Flame”.
The different characteristics of all three original members, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, and Debbi Peterson, are necessary to make The Bangles. Debbi was always the most stunning and took very important roles in their concert. Her drum play was strong and extremely stable throughout the concerts. Don’t fool her just because she was a female drummer. She was more powerful on the drumset than many male drummers at live performances. In fact, when The Bangles had a New York-based female guest drummer, Linda Pitmon, for “Going Down To Liverpool”, that showed that how Debbi’s drum play was very significant. As well as her drum play, her voice was powerful and didn’t faint behind her drum play when she took main. And she did background chorus and acoustic guitar, too. There aren’t many other drummers who are busy and active like her.
The center of The Bangles sound was definitely Vicki, who played impressional driving riffs from the strings of her vintage guitars during the show. Her guitar melodies were beautiful, The Bangles’ hit songs shined on stage with Vicki’s guitar works. She supported the edgy side and orthodox rock taste of The Bangles sound. And both her guitar and vocal performances were accurate and stable.
And Susanna was definitely the face of The Bangles, no matter that was a previous band issue. The Bangles needed her unique pop, pretty, and coquettish voice that could easily be recognized and identified. There weren’t many singers like her. She maintained her youthful and characteristic voice no matter how old she was. One of the significant thing about that concert was Susanna’s vocal was stable and more powerful than ever. It was the fact that her voice was sometimes unstable before. That night, the disadvantage of her pop voice was eliminated. I thought that was by her effort because human voice would usually tone down. Another thing I like about Susanna is her guitar play with Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker has my most favorite guitar sound. I love its heavy and sticky sound, and Susanna’s guitar was definitely necessary element with The Bangles’ sound. But probably many of both female and male fans also attracted to her “exotic” beauty and the contrast figure that her small frame of body played a big Rickenbacker. Susanna spread her physical and instrumental attractions all over the venue that night as well.
And don’t forget about Derrick Anderson, a regular tour bassist who had always played in the shadow. I love Michael Steele, but Derrick’s technical bassline strongly supported sound from the bottom and added more sound volume. The chemistry of rhythm section with Debbi was also good. Derrick had been a necessary tour member for a long time.
The Bangles didn’t have a keyboard player on the stage. They used to, at least until 2011, but not anymore. I think it’s a good idea. The sound without keyboard made The Bangles more rock-oriented rather than a pop band and enhance the attraction of the band. Susanna and Vicki used more guitar riffs for the replacement of keyboard. A good example was their massive hit, “In Your Room”. “In Your Room” was a pop song extensively used the keyboard in their recording. In their concert, “In Your Room” changed to a very cool rock anthem without the keyboard.
And my most favorite song of any musicians, “Manic Monday”. Vicki beautifully covered very important intro and other keyboard parts with her guitar. I can go back to 13 years old anytime I listen “Manic Monday”…and that night, too.
If I sought nostalgy only, probably I wouldn’t repeat going back to The Bangles’ concert 4 times. I wouldn’t go out of New York City like Boston in the second time and Philadelphia in the third time using my day offs, either. The main reason I regularly went to their concerts was they were still an active rock band not relying on the retrospective. Their powerful performance was number one. And they were very active on the stage. They didn’t give us any impression they were in middle age. Rather, they were still very cool and fresh on the stage. Comparing with many of 80’s bands that didn’t move on the stage much anymore and their performances were fading, The Bangles had definitely been in the front line. Probably my opinions were same with other audiences. The audience’s voltage was maximum when the concert was finished with emotional “Eternal Flame”.
The Bangles had never given me disappointment on their concerts. They always gave me excitements and new dreams. And they gave me another dream with their 1.5 hours concert at Irving Plaza as well. I will definitely go back to their concert whenever they’re on the East Coast tour again.
- Mary Street (Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles)
- Some Dreams Come True (Everything)
- Manic Monday (Different Light)
- Restless (All Over the Place)
- James (All Over the Place)
- He’s Got a Secret (All Over the Place)
- Going Down to Liverpool (All Over the Place)
- September Gurls (Different Light)
- I’m in Line (Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles)
- The Real World (Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles)
- Live (All Over the Place)
- A Hazy Shade of Winter (Less Than Zero soundtrack)
- If She Knew What She Wants (Different Light)
- Want You (Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles)
- Dover Beach (All Over the Place)
- Open My Eyes (Sweetheart of the Sun)
- Silent Treatment (All Over the Place)
- In Your Room (Everything)
- Hero Takes a Fall (All Over the Place)
- How Is The Air Up There (Encore/Ladies and Gentleman…The Bangles)
- Walk Like an Egyptian (Encore/Different Light)
- Eternal Flame (Encore/Everything)
MY MEMORIES WITH THE BANGLES “IN MY ROOM”
They were the moment my dream finally came true after The Bangles concert in Philadelphia, 2014. Unfortunately, Susanna left early, but both Vicki and Debbi of Peterson sisters kindly accepted my requests for selfies and autographs. They were very cool people! I remembered I was very nervous in front my eternal idols, but I love those happy photos.
I have “The Bangles corner” in my room. The large poster is a custom made from my photo at B.B. King Blues Club in New York City, 2009. I couldn’t find their favorite poster so I made my own! I also have the posters with their autographs I bought at a concert and online. On the small frame, “Different Light” CD jacket is with autographs of Vicki and Debbi I got in Philadelphia. And a signatured pick is what Vicki threw to me from the stage in Boston, 2011. The Bangles definitely gives me more than “Some Dreams Come True”.
LET’S GO BACK TO THE BANGLES’S ROOTS! THEIR FIRST ALBUM, “ALL OVER THE PLACE”