May 2, 2010
St Louis, MO
Written by James Downing
While Mike, Brian, and Tom were paddling their way around Memphis during the Memphis In May festivities, I was high and dry in St Louis for The Bangles concert at The Pageant. The Bangles have always been one of my all time favorite bands but I had never had the chance to see them live. When I saw that they were playing a date in St Louis, I put in for my vacation days at work and got a ticket the first day they went on sale. I was very excited during the weeks leading up to the show. I was finally going to get to see The Bangles live!
The Bangles were the off spring of another band called The Bangs. An LA band with it roots firmly in the Paisley Pop sound that is so popular in that city. Michael Steele, who was also a brief member of The Runaways, teamed up with sisters Vicki (guitar) and Debbie Peterson (drums) and Susanna Hoffs (guitar) to form one of the most memorable bands from the 80′s.
The sweet sound of Susanna, Vicki, Debbi and Michael dominated the airwaves for several years. Then things went sour. After being on tour for endless months at a time and being around each other for seemd like 24/7, the girls needed a break. The Bangles decided to disband in 1989. Susanna did a couple of solo albums, Vicki joined The Continental Drifters with future sister in law Susan Cowsill, Debbi played with a band called Kindered Spirits and Michael formed Crash Wisdom. Susanna’s husband, movie director, Jay Roach suggested that girls back together to record a song for his current movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” Things seemed to go ok and they decided to reform the band. Michael Steele wanted to do a solo record and be at home more, so she quit the band again in 2005. Today the bass duties are handled by Derek Taylor who also plays with Vicki’s brother-in-law, Bob Cowsill, in LA. Also rounding out the band is a guy that has been a member since the early days, keyboard player Greg “Harpo” Hifman. He has often been called “The Fifth Bangle.”
Another all female band, Sick Of Sara, opened the show. They were talented, but I couldn’t get into them. I was there to see The Bangles and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. After a 30 minute set, Sick Of Sara left the stage and the crew started setting up the stage for the Main Attraction.
Around nine o’clock the song “Lust For Life” by Iggy Pop came over the sound system. About three fourths of the way through the song, the lights dimmed and you could see the girls (or the gurls as they are often called on their web site) standing at stage right ready to walk out. By the time they hit the stage the floor was full of fans ready to rock. And rock they did. The Bangles opened up with one of my favorite hits of theirs, “Hazy Shade Of Winter.” They sounded great and looked great too. Susanna Hoffs was playing her signature Rickenbacker guitar and Vicki was playing one of the Daisy Rock Bangle guitars. Debbi was sitting behind them both pounding on the drums. Without saying a word they broke right into a song off the first Bangles album, “All Over The Place.” That song was “Restless.” I was amazed that if you really didn’t know it, you would think you were right back in the 80′s. None of them looked like they have aged a day in the past 25 years. Vicki was the spokes person for the band and told the crowd that this was the last night of their exhausting four-city tour of the Midwest and how it had been a very long time since they had played St Louis.
They didn’t wait for the end of the set to do the hits. The next song was one of their biggest ones “Manic Monday.” They followed that one up with another song from the first album, “Live.” This is another one of my favorites. Everyone knows that during this weekend Nashville experienced one of the worst floods in the city’s history. Vicki dedicated the next song to Nashville and wished everyone good luck with the rising waters. That song was “The Rain Song.” I was hoping this song would be on the set list. It was written by Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill during their days together in The Drifters. It also appeared on the 2003 album “Doll Revolution.”
I think a lot of people think Susanna Hoffs does all the lead vocals but that is not true. All three girls handle the vocals. I think that is good because no ones voice gets strained during a concert and they always sound in tip top shape. It was Susanna’s turn next at the mic for the song, “If She Knew What She Wants.” Susanna did the next song as well, “He’s Got A Secret” before turning the vocal duties over to Debbi sitting behind the drums for two songs, “Some Dreams Come True” and “Here Right Now,” another song from “Doll Revolution.”
Now, I knew that they were working with Matthew Sweet on a new record. We all got a sample of that new record when they performed the song, “Under A Cloud.” It was a very nice pop song. I could hear this song playing on the radio as a hit. I know it will be a hit with Bangles fans.
Debbi once again showed off her vocal talents on “Going Down To Liverpool.” I guess the next song is perhaps the biggest hit The Bangles ever had, “Eternal Flame.” Susanna sings lead on this one and you could hear the crowd singing along word for word from start to finish. This was followed by “September Girls” then Vicki sang “Watching The Sky.” The latter is a really rocking song and the crowd really got into it. I think the girls could tell too. I didn’t expect what was coming next. I am a big fan of Todd Rundgren and to hear The Bangles do one of his songs was absolutely awesome. The song was from his days with The Nazz, “Open My Eyes.” They sounded great. I think I liked their version more than The Nazz. I have read there will a cover song or two on the new album and I really hope that this is one of them.
Next up was a medley of two songs. “Get The Girl/Outside Chance.” This was followed by a song from the “Everything” album, “Be With You” again featuring drummer Debbi Peterson. The last two songs of the set were “Ride The Ride” and “Hero Takes A Fall.”
The “gurls” said good night to St Louis and left the stage but the full house wasn’t about to let them leave. I watched the stage and as the roadies were setting up more mic stands, I knew what was about to happen. I had seen Sick Of Sara open up for Rick Springfield a couple of times. Each time they had done the Bangles hit “In Your Room.” Sure enough Vicki walked up to her mic and said, “I have heard that Sick Of Sara does a Bangles song in their set sometimes. Why don’t we bring them out for “In Your Room.”” Some people seemed to like this but this is my very favorite Bangles song ever and to have 5 extra people running around on stage during this kind of ruined it for me. Sick Of Sara left the stage and I could only think of one or two hits that they hadn’t done. One of those songs was “Walk Like An Egyptian.” A lot of fans think this is a silly song but I have always liked it a lot. In the middle of it Vicki started singing “Every day I get in the queue, To get on the bus that takes me to you…..” They stuck The Who’s “Magic Bus” right in and it worked great. This was the last song of the night and The Bangles took their final bows as they left the stage for the evening.
Being such a big fan of The Bangles I have to say this was one of my favorite shows this year. They were everything I expected them to be and more. They played about and hour and forty minutes and I think the song selection was great. I would have liked to had heard the song, “James” for obvious reasons. The only problem I had was when Sick Of Sara came out during the encore. For that reason I am going to take away a half a point on the Concert Blast Scale. That gives the show a 9.5.
I am hoping that when the new record comes out, The Bangles will tour a little more than they have lately. They tend to stay close to California. I will definitely go back to see them again if they play within driving distance of the Nashville, TN area. This is one band that delivers the goods when it comes to their live show. If you ever get a chance to see them, do it. I am sure that you will agree with me 100 %.
Written by James Downing
Tags: blog, Bob Cowsill, concert blast, concert review, Crash Wisdom, Debbi Peterson, Derek Taylor, Greg "Harpo" Hifman, Iggy Pop, James Downing, Jay Roach, Kindered Spirits, Michael Steele, Nazz, St Louis, Susan Cowsill, Susanna Hoffs, The Bangles, The Continental Drifters, The Pageant, Todd Rundgren, Vicki Peterson