The Bangles Live at House of Blues - 10/10/11 Chicago Concert Review

The Bangles Live at House of Blues - 10/10/11 Chicago Concert Review

After nearly thirty years, and their second album since reuniting in 1998, the Bangles arrived at House of Blues Monday in support of Sweetheart of the Sun proving there's more to their live show than simply mere nostalgia.  

Opening with the jangly guitar and three part harmonies of "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)," the band immediately showcased music from their recently released, Matthew Sweet produced, new album.  A theme of the evening quickly became how good the new material holds up amongst the band's hits.  Monday at House of Blues the band performed twenty three songs, probably only six of which were major hits. The new tracks, with a very sixties influence, really sounded great.

Continuing with their take on "Hazy Shade of Winter," the band (Susanna Hoffs on guitar, Vicki Peterson on guitar and Debbi Peterson on drums) was augmented by extra musicians on bass, keyboards and guitar for a rich, full sound that flat out rocked.

The keyboard hook of "Manic Monday" sounds as great today as it did upon release in 1986.  While written by Prince, the band absolutely makes the song their own and it's one of the finest pop moments of the eighties.  In the live setting, the song absolutely sparkles.  The keyboard was crisp and up front and the girls couldn't have sounded better throughout the song's trademark key changes.

"Get the Girl," from 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, featured the best vocal harmonies of the night and was one of the set's most fun moments.

While it's hard not to be enamored by Susanna Hoffs (at fifty two years old she is still gorgeous and sounds great... like her bandmates), drummer Debbi Peterson is really the band's secret weapon.  She's a hell of a drummer and her relentless pounding fueled the show's most rocking moments ("In My Room").  Her lead vocals on songs like "Some Dreams Come True" and "Ball and Chain" were also excellent.

Always a trademark of each Bangles album, covers are also a major part of the band's live set.  In addition to the aforementioned "Hazy Shade of Winter,"  the band gave concertgoers their take on The Who's "Magic Bus," Todd Rundgren's "Open My Eyes," and The Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard."

But what would a Bangles show be without group sing-a-longs?  Susanna Hoffs sent out "Eternal Flame" to "All the girls!" who obliged her by chanting along to every word.  "Walk Like an Egyptian" may not have featured the whistling part live but it did feature the band (along with opening act Vintage Trouble) trading lead vocal duties over an electronic drum beat and of course dancing like they did in the once ubiquitous video.

Bucking the reunion trend by actually releasing new music (what a radical concept!), the Bangles provided more than mere nostalgia Monday night at House of Blues. Hopefully it won't be another eight years before their next album.

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    Jim Ryan

    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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