The Bangles Live
(at The 25th Annual
Long Beach Pride)
May 17, 2008


Time, Time, Time... see what's become of The Bangles!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

The Bangles, BABY!
The smile on her father's face suggested less an overwhelming happiness than it did a slightly less miserable experience as if for a moment or three life was slightly less crushing. Truth to tell I had no idea that look was a smile until she specifically pointed that fact out to me, no matter how many times I had seen the picture, which was a lot. Even more truth to tell, I had been with the man the day the photo was taken and I couldn't, for the life of me, remember his expression changing even once. At one point I may have mistaken him for a mannequin of Khan Noonien Singh, which would, perhaps, have been all kinds of shocking save for the fact that we were, that day, at a touring exhibit that paid tribute to the varied incarnations of Star Trek. As I looked on that picture, still attempting in vain to discern any Northern leaning corners to her father's mouth, she and I were about to head out on yet another of our many adventures. This one was soon to be enhanced by Belgian Beer.

Quick note to you true believers out there, any Belgian Beer worth its hops is shipped to bars with its own branded glasses properly shaped to enhance the enjoyment of that particular malt recipe. I advised her and her lovely girlfriend that should they ever enter a bar and discover that the Belgian Beers being served there were not served in specifically branded glasses or goblets, they should get up abruptly and leave said bar in a huff of some kind. Her girlfriend was no longer a drinker, so the odds of her ordering a Beer of even the strength found in the beverage marked "O'Doul's" were slimmer than Calista Flockhart. However, I told her that it wasn't about the Beer. Well, not directly about the Beer. It was about attention to detail. Much like David Lee Roth and his brown M&Ms, it wasn't about the actual consumer product, it was about how these things were served that signified whether said servers gave a crap about their potentially vital roles in society. If the dudes from Van Halen were to find a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones not removed, they could be sure as Teacher was Hot that the Contract wasn't followed to the letter (including those coming before and after M) and that their unique stage show was going to collapse like a fat family's couch. Similarly, if you walk into an establishment and order a Belgian Beer and you notice an unadorned glass, or perhaps one labeled with the unmistakable insignia of the Miller Brewing Company or some guy who recently got married there, you have to understand that these people are almost as bad as the guy who cancelled Star Trek. Get up, cough nervously and leave without paying the check.

Interestingly, she understood. They both understood me. But then, they love me. By the way, ladies... thank you. I love you too.

But, believe it or not, this article isn't about Khan, Flockhart, Glasses or Van Halen concerts. Though it may peripherally have to do with Beer (albeit American). No, this article is about another concert... that of The Bangles. The Bangles and the days gone by. She's going soon, don't think I've told you, but she is. She'll be back, after seeing the things she'll surely see, but it might be a cruel summer until that Hazy Shade of Winter looks back around. Yeah, I realize "Cruel Summer" was by Bananarama. Bite me (please).

Regardless, it was this show we were heading to that Saturday Night in Long Beach. My best friend, my best friend's girlfriend, myself... and about a thousand other girls with girls and a thousand other guys with guys. It was the 25th Annual Long Beach Gay Pride celebration. I drove there in my convertible, two beautiful Lesbians in the car with me, doing my best Straight Boy Sidekick duties. They call me that, you see. That, and their Purse. Could be worse than Purse. In short, I wasn't only there because I've always wanted to sleep with Susanna Hoffs, but that did play a part, I'll admit.

Telling myself the twenty dollar entry fee was for the concert instead of the "opportunity" to buy souvenirs for the Ladies, I made my way (with the Souvenirs) to the semi-designated meeting spot in the crowd. I was disparaged by the fact that although Beer was served until 9 PM, tickets with which to buy Beer stopped exchanging hands at 8:30. The intent may have been to curb drunk driving, the result was me handing my two-short drink tickets to an unconvincing transvestite in exchange for a Diet Coke nobody has yet consumed. I guess that has to by my souvenir.

After wading through the crowd and waiting for the only-remotely-humorous warm up ladies to leave the stage (a longer wait than you readers have endured, by the by, for the actual review), the Five current Bangles (plus one keyboard player who... was... a... MAN) bounded onto the stage for their set. It's been 20 years since the Bangles were topping the charts and just three-years shy of 30 since they first formed in LA. Naturally the ladies must be gray, wrinkled and out of shape, right? Wrong! These ladies look fantastic. They're in great shape and have all the energy, proficiency and vocal passions they had back in the '80s.

Hoffs, in particular, looks beautiful and more than carries her age well, which is noteworthy because at the time of this writing she's only seven months away from her fiftieth birthday! And there she was jamming and bounding around in her leather boots and Mini-Skirt! And she pulled it off, too! (I mean, she "pulled off" the look, I don't mean she went bottomless).

Shockingly, Vicki Peterson, who still dwarfs Hoffs on stage, past her fiftieth birthday back in January of 2008. If anything, she looks even better. At forty-seven, Vicki's sister Debbi Peterson might have been considered the "Baby" of the group if replacement bassist Abby Travis hadn't been added to the lineup (former Runaways bassist Michael Steele also ran away from the Bangles a few years ago).

But who cares about how they looked? Actually... I would say 99% of the women in that crowd and maybe three guys besides myself cared a lot. The rest... eh? Moving on... the music is why we were there, ostensibly, and luckily that had it where it counted, amigos.

The set covered their top tracks and a number that we weren't all aware of. One problem is that so much of the crowd was younger than Hoffs (or even Travis) looked, so they were aware of a precious few songs. The real flaw, methinks, was the line-up of the set. The show started light without a high-energy number to boost us into the fast lane. The song "Hero Takes a Fall" was an early crowd pleaser, but it wasn't until the Prince-Penned "Manic Monday" that the opening notes of a tune kicked the screams into high gear.

The quiet moments were still the most prevalent, which was understandable, considering their catalogue, and appreciated by the fans, but it led for a somewhat low-energy set in some spots, regardless of the fact that they sounded fantastic. "If she knew what she Wants" caused some cheers and sing-alongs while "Going Down to Liverpool" was a lot of fun to play and hear. "Walking down your Street" was also pleasing, but the crowd chatter kept calling for a certain remake that had brought them one of their biggest hits.

Yeah, I'm talking about "Hazy Shade of Winter", which sounded incredible with its high-energy riffs and exceptional harmonizing. Interestingly enough, this song would have been best featured as their opening number, as it amplified the energy of the crowd to the Nth degree. The Bangles dispensed with the light, sensitive opening of "Time, Time, Time, see what's become... of me... ", skipping right into the recognizable guitar riff in the capable hands of Vicki. We could've used this one first, but trust me, it was worth the wait and sounded at least as good live as it had from the old Tape Deck back in '87. Excellent tune.

The softer sounds continued in the second half of the show as I politely rebuffed the advances of a young gay man in heat... I didn't mention that to my Lesbian Amigas until after the end of the show. I'm 6' 3" and have progressively widening shoulders, therefore, it's become automatic to me to stand behind my friends at floor shows and to let any short Lesbians stand in front of me as well. In brief (or... short), they were in front of me and didn't see. More later. "In Your Room" was a medium-energy hit both back in the days and that Saturday Night. It got special cheers when Hoffs altered the lyrics to change the word "boy" to "girl". The ladies in the crowd loved the idea... as did I. The guy behind me? I'm guessing not.

The fitting end came with "Walk Like an Egyptian", one of a few songs in which Debbi took the front (allowing a programmed Drum Machine to replace her rhythms). This one was not only an incredible crowd pleaser, but was a hell of a focus for each member, especially Hoffs. Hoffs isn't, and wasn't, merely "pretty". This woman has an overt sexiness that comes from her body movements to a good degree and from her eyes to an excessive degree. Check out the old MTV Videos and you'll see what I mean. She has a way of leveling her face at the Microphone, then cutting her eyes sexily about the crowd, leaving her mouth breathlessly open long after her last syllable. She did that with her a cappella final chorus of "Walk Like an Egyptian". Man... My blood was boiling. Pushing 50 and the woman's still got it... in so many ways. In short... I could've gone for "The Allnighter".

They all do, I realized as we slowly walked away from the stage, politely dispersing having had our final punch. That's when something weird happened. Generally an Encore comes when the wild crowd demands more, more, more, more music. This time the satisfied crowd was almost completely gone, much as Hillary Clinton's presidential chances almost were that very night. But just as with the former first lady's reach for the top office, the Ladies wouldn't let it all go! The two chicks who had been tasked with warming up the crowd before the show (a "set" which revolved abundantly around their repeated mentions of Pride's sponsors) grabbed the mics and uncomfortably said "Um... I'm not sure they're quite gone just yet. A collective "OH!" came over the crowd as a smaller version of this sea of Rainbow People walked back to the stage. Now that's darned weird.

But to be fair, we had yet to hear "Eternal Flame", one of their biggest hits (if you don't remember that incredibly sexy video, check your pulse, you may be dead). That, lesbians and germs, was the encore and once again the ladies sounded fantastic. Of course this re-assembling crowd caused me to be in front of a few people I had previously been behind. When I was tapped on the shoulder my first thought was "Again, I told you no thanks!" It turned out, however, to be a pair of short Lesbians. A butch lady had her arms wrapped around her cute and remarkably large breasted companion. As always I was happy to let them in front of me. This time my consciousness was conquered by the eye-magnetizing hotness of this particular femme. This had been happening all day, actually. So many hot gay women. Look, I don't want to get caught checking women out anyway, but checking out hot lesbians at Gay Pride is just a face-slap waiting to happen. At times I was powerless, I'll admit. Therefore my next thought was "Aw, man, I did it again!"

The show ended (in actuality) then with "Eternal Flame", a beautiful song that lacked the real punctuation that "Walk Like an Egyptian" had. Still, we were happy with the cool show, the sounds and the look. The ladies still have it and the show was very good. With a little more emphasis on the energy and a change in the song lineup, this one could have been great. Then again, they played their catalogue with great passion and proficiency, so who can complain? Not me.

My friends and I then wandered back to the convertible, laughing and being funny as always. They joked about certain randy gay men in the crowd before them, I brought up the excitable gay man who was (and wanted to be) behind me. They wanted to know why I didn't tell my "Lesbian Attack Bodyguards" (their words) as they would've kicked his ass for me. Eh... he got the message. Besides if I were at all homophobic or insecure, then I sure as bangin' shouldn't've been at Long Beach Pride, now should I have? No, indeed.

The next day involved quite a lot of running, in lieu of our usual weight-lifting workout. Though I caught a good bit of the parade with my two dear friends, I forewent a second day of pride to spend some much needed time with my wife. So I walked back the three sweltering miles to my convertible and drove the half hour back home, sore from running and sunburned from... Hibernian Heritage. The next day, which was Manic Monday, incidentally, I realized that ol' Khan's picture did feature a smile after all and I gave my great Beer advice. I muse over the next week when things will change for all three of us for a while... the first of many whiles. Belgian Beer is unique enough to have its own glasses shipped with the bottles to enhance each experience. But when it comes to great friends and adventures, you've got to drink from the bottle. Peace... and happy pride.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go buy a copy of The Allnighter. Ah... yes...

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The Bangles (05/17/08)
Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own views!
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