You can’t accuse the Go-Go’s of false advertising. Just before the Go-Go’s hit the stage Wednesday night, July 23, 2014 at the Talking Stick Resort’s Salt River Grand Ballroom in Scottsdale, Pink’s “Get the Party Started,” blasted through the venue’s loud speakers. “I’m comin’ up so you better get this party started” warned the lyrics. And as the Go-Go’s drummer Gina Schock suddenly appeared, taking over the tracked drumbeat with her own live one, the party was on. The whole room was dancing, clapping and jumping. The near sixty minute party had begun.
The Go Go’s appearance in Scottsdale was part of their Replay America, the Ultimate 80’s Festival tour. While at many stops, the festival features four acts, The Go Go’s, Martha Davis and the Motels, Patty Smyth of Scandal and Naked Eyes, the Scottsdale audience was treated to only the Go Go’s and a lengthened set by Martha Davis and the Motels (reviewed separately).
As Schock drummed away on “Get the Party Started,” she was soon joined on stage by bassist Abby Travis, who has replaced former Go-Go’s bass player, Kathy Valentine. The two were then accompanied by guitarist/keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, guitarist Jane Wiedlin and vocalist Belinda Carlisle. The quintet, whose enthusiasm on stage matched that found in the audience in front of them, readily launched into “Vacation.”
Carlisle’s voice was pure and the harmonies of Wiedlin, Caffey and Travis were spot on. Has it really been thirty three years since the Go-Go’s became MTV darlings? Both their vocals and their musical playing ability have held up well and maybe even improved.
The crowd was officially greeted by Carlisle who mentioned she was a bit scared that the temperature in Phoenix that day was 114. The crowd cheered the news, as proud of the heat as a Midwesterner is as proud of the footage of snowbanks they endure in the winter. But at least it’s a dry heat right?
Carlisle promised that most of the music of the evening would come from the Go-Go’s first four albums. There’s that truth in advertising again, as there are only four Go-Go’s studio albums. But she didn’t lie. The set list included five songs off the Go-Go’s multi-platinum selling, debut album, “Beauty and the Beat (1981), two from 1982’s “Vacation,” one song from “Talk Show” (1984) and one song off of 2001’s “God Bless the Go-Go’s.”
It was the album “Beauty and the Beat” which the Go-Go’s drew from next with “Tonight” and “How Much More.” Wiedlin showed some dance moves and the crowd remained standing, many singing along.
Carlisle’s solo career’s first hit, “Mad About You,” followed. Caffey’s guitar work was featured on the song which could have been at home on any Go-Go’s album.
The Go-Go’s hypnotic effect on the crowd was truly evident on “This Town.” If Carlisle lifted up her right arm, many in the audience raised their right arm. If she raised her left arm, they raised their left arm. Carlisle’s lead vocals and Caffey’s, Wiedlin’s and Travis’ harmonies were equally captivating.
As if the energy level needed a boost, it didn’t, the Go-Go’s pulled several people in the audience onto the stage to dance to “Cool Jerk.” No worry that those who came onstage will receive a callback to tour as the Go-Go’s full time dancers, but those lucky enough to be onstage, the band and the audience were having a great time. Which, after all, was the theme throughout the entire Go-Go’s show.
An animated Wiedlin shared the lead vocals with Carlisle on “Cool Places,” a song Wiedlin had collaborated on with the group Sparks. After “La La Land,” the Go-Go’s homage to their founding town, it was time for the Go-Go’s big hits.
The one-two punch of “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat,” closed the regular portion of the show. Songs that were once part of the new wave revolution now signify, as evidenced by the frenzy of the crowd, that the revolution took hold and stuck around.
For an encore, just in case one forgot the Go-Go’s origins, the Go-Go’s gave the Josie Cotton song, “Johnny Are You Queer?” their punk rock treatment. Carlisle may not have completely morphed back into her Dottie Danger persona, but it was proof that the Go-Go’s have never been just sugar and spice and everything nice.
The chords from Caffey’s keyboards introduced the final song, the infectious “Head Over Heels.” It was impossible to not stand up and sing the song, although the audience’s hand clapping needed some work to be in sync with the song’s chorus. Wiedlin spun endlessly around in circles and then played her guitar while it was on her head. It was a shame to see all this enthusiasm come to an end.
From the outset, the Go-Go’s promised a party and they delivered. Scottsdale audiences for classic rock concerts aren’t known to stand up all night and sing and clap along to every song. But the Go-Go’s energy rained down on the crowd in such a way that they couldn’t help themselves. God bless the Go-Go’s indeed.
Set List: Get The Party Started | Vacation | Tonight | How Much More | Mad About You | This Town | Cool Jerk | Cool Places | La La Land | Our Lips Are Sealed | We Got The Beat | Encore: Johnny, Are You Queer? | Head Over Heels