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The Go-Go’s Farewell Concert – Unsealed One More Time

The Go-Go’s Farewell Concert – Unsealed One More Time
Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin

Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin

If you were an admirer of pop music in the early 1980’s, chances are you were smitten for The Go-Go’s. Their perfect blend of bubble gum cool with an infections pop beat, the Go-Go’s were in fact the first and only all-female band that wrote their own music and played their own instruments. The original line-up consisted of lead singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist Jane Wiedlin, drummer Gina Schock, bassist Kathy Valentine and keyboardist and guitarist Charlotte Caffey. They initially formed in the Los Angeles punk band scene in 1978, which was recently described by Caffey as a “really cool hotbed of creativity.” The Go-Go’s rode the crest of the New Wave era to the top of the pop charts. Capitalizing on their prolific songwriting prowess and the emerging juggernaut that was MTV, I.R.S. Records signed the ladies to a recording contract in 1981. They released their debut album Beauty and the Beat, which quickly reached the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and stayed there for an uninterrupted 6 weeks. Unheard of before this quintet broke through this industry imposed glass ceiling. Selling over 3 million copies at the time, the Go-Go’s found themselves nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. While they didn’t take home the award, but they did capture the hearts and imaginations of their legions of loyal fans.

Charlotte Caffey

Charlotte Caffey

Two more albums quickly followed, 1982’s Vacation and 1984’s Talk Show, as did a couple of Rolling Stone magazine covers. It was at this time, the “America’s Sweethearts” veneer began to grow thin. Personality conflicts, creative differences, well documented drug abuse and incessant infighting triggered the ladies to call it quits in 1985. After a widely popular VH-1 Behind The Music special aired, the women reunited to put out a new record, God Bless the Go-Go’s in 2001. On August 11, 2011 the band also received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, near the former Masque Club, where they played some of their earliest shows. A few more breakups and reunions occurred over the following decade, including bass player Kathy Valentine’s acrimonious dismissal in 2013. Now a quartet, Belinda, Charlotte, Jane and Gina, accompanied by bass player Abby Travis, have decided to end their 38-year career with an 18 date farewell tour.

Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock

Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock

Marking their third and now final appearance at the Ravinia, the ladies emerged on stage, after quick opening sets from Kaya Stewart and Best Coast, to the song “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad playing on speakers behind them, to the roars and applause from the eagerly awaiting audience. This series of shows may mark the end of their touring regimen, but this is not the end of the Go-Go’s. They are also currently working on a full-scale, Broadway style musical set for a 2017 or 2018 opening, using their biggest hits as the soundtrack.  However, tonight was about their music and experiencing it live, if for one more time.  An eclectic array of both obscure and familiar hits, the evening began with the classic “Vacation,” then “How Much More” and “Tonight.” Carlisle, tossing her shoulder length auburn hair to the side before addressing her fans. “Well, Good Evening!” she cooed.  Going on, she said the band had been “together since 1978. That’s 5 decades of making music together.” Adorned in a black and white top, black pants and her signature bare feet, the band played “This Town” before launching into Carlisle’s 1986 solo hit “Mad About You.”  “Shhhhh” she whispered to the audience before hitting her big note toward the end of this pop classic.

Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle

Jane Wiedlin addressed the crowd next, her bright blue hair tousled on top of her head.  “We started in the Hollywood Punk Rock scene” and then treated the crowd to some of their earliest songs, “Insincere” and “Screaming.” After “Fun With Ropes” she decried, “and now I’m exhausted.”  Before they played “Good Girl,” Caffey took control of the microphone. “Let me say something about these women. They are badass!” she exclaimed as the audience hailed along.  Slowing the pace a bit, “Fading Fast” was a fleeting ballad, showcasing Carlisle’s vulnerable vocal stylings. The frivolity quickly returned as Carlisle and Wiedlin kicked and sashayed their way across the stage to the tune of Sparks “Cool Places.”

Belinda Carlisle, Abby Travis

Belinda Carlisle, Abby Travis

For years the Go-Go’s have invited fans to the stage to dance with them during their next number, “Cool Jerk,” although this year they were not allowed to because of the park’s “regulations.” Ever defiant, Schock stepped away from her drums and invited audience members to come closer to the stage and fill in the noticeable empty seats. Security was momentarily frazzled, but the crowd responded rapidly and respectfully. The band was thankfully no longer playing to empty front row seats. Schock also remarked about the haughty home prices of Highland Park, the affluent suburb where the Ravinia calls home. To those unable to rush the stage, Schock pronounced everyone else should “dance in your seats.”

Stephen Best

Stephen Best with Poster

After a rapid version of 1981’s “Skidmarks on My Heart” and  1981 “La La Land,” it was time for the familiar hits. The audience was up on their feet for “Our Lips Are Sealed” and  “We Got The Beat.” Returning for their encore, Belinda commented the next song was “a little ditty we picked up along the way,” before starting a scaled down, folksy version of Miley Cyrus’ “Wreaking Ball.” Before anyone conjectures as to this song selection being an odd pick, Schock did help co-write songs on Cyrus’ album. While I would have preferred to have heard “Yes Or No” or “Turn To You,” two songs which did not make the group’s farewell tour’s set list, it is nice to know the individual members of The Go-Go’s are mentoring a next generation of pop talent. What isn’t so refreshing to note is the alarming fact there are no modern day contenders to fill the void of the all girl band. There are plenty of scantily clad vocal groups, but none who write their own material or who play their own instruments. That is absolutely tragic.

The final two songs of the evening, 1982’s “Get Up & Go” and Talk Show’s biggest hit, “Head Over Heels.” Caffey dedicated that particular song to all the fans who have stuck by the ladies for “all these years.”  After the song’s conclusion, the five women reunited center stage for one final, victorious bow.  A fan of the Go-Go’s for years, it is bittersweet to know as a live commodity they are now going, going, gone.

The Go-Go’s Going Going Gone; The Farewell Tour played The Ravinia Friday, August 19, 2016.

Music

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.

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