The Go Go's at the Petrillo Bandshell
Stevie Nicks at the Allstate Arena
The Go Go's were the last great "girl group." Rock/pop with a punky edge and easily confused with that other '80s girl group ( the Bangles ) , the Go Go's emerged not only as a refreshing idea, but as a blast of fun. "Beauty and the Beat" had them wrapped in towels as if they stepped out of a sauna. The follow-up, "Vacation" had them as a stringline of water skiing girls. When they hit in 1981 they wore taffeta party gowns and between lead singer Belinda Carlyle's Crest smile and drummer Gina Schocks' vicious bang-bang, the second single, "We got the Beat" was the definition of beach-girl party fun. You had to be dead not to like it.
Owing a lot to the Frankie and Annette school of beach frolics, the Go Go's, like their contemporaries, the B-52's, cornered the market on early '60s cheese. But where the B-52's got cheesier and more out there by the minute, the Go Go's got real. 1984's "Talk Show" was headed off by the single, "Head over Heels"---the cheeriest ode to emotional turmoil since the Beatles' "Help." Inter-band friction, Carlyle's ( but not the band's ) celebrity, dwindling sales, and the pressure of being perceived as five babes with guitars vs. a real band took its toll. A bust-up was imminent.
The Go's Go's love you ... pics by Vern Hester
Now it's 17 years later and a Go Go's reunion has finally happened. "God bless the Go Go's" is just as fine as its three predecessors and though we've been there before, it's still refreshing. Seeing them at A Taste of Chicago July 7, 2001 was even better than seeing them at A Taste of Chicago on July 4,1984. Way better,
It made a difference that Carlyle's solo career was satisfied ( "Blue Heaven" ) , and that the worth of fame was put in its place, and that they're older, and that the Go Go's ( unlike that other 1980s band ) were actually missed. On the first piano chords of the Taste show's opener, "Head over Heels," Carlyle kicked off her shoes and started doing her patented jerk/watusi moves. Looking comfortable and assured, the band ... just ... got ... into ... it. That they looked great was one thing, that they had a cohesiveness and united joy in there performance was better than when they started. The hits were there ( "Our Lips are Sealed"---the best unheralded gay anthem yet, "Vacation," "Unforgiven," "We got the Beat" ) , but the show's closer, a nod to the late Mr. J. Ramone in "I Wanna be Sedated," was just as appropriate. I only regret that I didn't bring a beach ball.
Stevie Nicks equals dreams, spirits, mirrors, crystals, gothic mysticism, shadowy whispers and enough embroidered lace to mummify three third world nations. Halfway between her emergence as a mega-talent and now ( that's 25 years ) it looked like shtick, but the new "Trouble in Shangri-La" ( seven years in the making ) and the "Enchanted" tour beg to differ. Anybody else would have ridden that witch bit for all it was worth, but Nicks is way too smart for that.
As one of Fleetwood Mac's three vocalist/songwriters ( though Lindsay Buckingham has the quirky brilliance and Christine McVie has the melodic chops ) , Nicks, particularly on her own, has created the most diverse body of work. "Rhiannon"---that lullaby to a Welsh witch---not only sparked the Mac's transformation from a British blues band to a super California pop empire, but added a literacy to rock in its lyrics and sound ( Daphne de Muir by way of L.A. and the Beach Boys ) .
On the one hand, the Mac ( thanks to producers Buckingham and Richard Dashault ) grounded her image and her approach while simultaneously confining her artistic trajectory. 1981's solo "Belle Donna" changed all that ( after that, the Mac traded in the rocking innovations and freshness of "Rumours" and "Tusk" for the pleasant pop of "Mirage" and "Tango in the Night," familiar, but blandly safe ) . This isn't to say that Nick's craft wasn't in full power on "Rumours" and "Tusk," quite the opposite. "Sara," "Fireflys," "Storms," "Sisters of the Moon," and "Dreams" are some of her ( and the Mac's ) best work. And Buckingham and Dashault managed to make her music sound ethereal, mysterious, and meaty enough to stick.
But solo, Nick's quavering tonality has a whole new spin. Everything from AM arena rock ( "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," "Edge of 17" ) , synthesized disco ( "Stand Back" ) , hard pop ( "Rooms on Fire," "Talk to Me" ) , techno-hard rock ( "I Can't Wait" ) , and naked balladry ( "Beauty and the Beast" ) but without that supernatural veneer. The further she got from the Mac, the clearer she sounded and the more distinct and dimensional her approach. Listening to "Trouble in Shangri-La" and the Enchanted retrospective, the idea of Nicks barefoot, waving lace, and standing aside while the rest of the Mac roared in stadiums seems silly.
Starting her show at the Allstate Arena with "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," she set a moderate tempo for the rest of the night. The Allstate's acoustics are comparable to stuffing a cornet with four pounds of wet socks, and Nick's band sounded thuddingly muffled. But Nick's clarion waver cut over the den and with the help of some theatrical lighting ( think of Batman Forever ) and a slightly hokey stage set ( it didn't resemble the Shangri-La of "Lost Horizon," it looked more like Tara after it had been blown to bits ) , she made her whole career come to life---not as a rock fossil but as something unique on its own. Looking svelte and sexy in ( what else ) black lace she roamed HER stage freely, covering a chunk of "Trouble" ( "Enchanted" ) , plenty of her solo work ( "Stand Back" ) , and a few Mac favorites ( "Rhiannon," "Dreams," a duet with Sheryl Crow on "GoldDust Woman" ) .
To my ears she sounds earthier, stronger than in the '70s----her growth as a vocalist makes her contributions on "Rumours" and "Fleetwood Mac" sound light, almost flakey compared to now. And if I had any doubts she smashed them with the show's closer, a serene "Has Anybody Ever Written Anything for You?"