It really was a Manic Monday. Four devoted Banglers rushed from our crazed careers for a couple stormy weathers at my favorite Chelsea watering hole, La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel, before seeing The Bangles at Highline Ballroom. I had never seen these gals perform live, and boy was it worth the wait. Supporting the release of their fantastic seventh studio album, “Sweetheart of the Sun,” today’s Bangles feature three of the four original members, guitarist/vocalist, Susanna Hoffs, and sisters, guitarist/vocalist Vicki Peterson and drummer/vocalist Debbi Peterson. Bassist/vocalist Michael Steele left the band in 2005.
Notice that all the band members are vocalists? While researching this gig, I discovered that all four women are pretty balanced. They all write, perform instruments and sing lead on an equal number of songs on each record. Contrary to popular belief, Susanna Hoffs is not the lead singer. It’s sort of at the heart of The Bangles fallout too. As the band started to top the charts in the ’80s, the public gravitated to Hoffs with her unique voice and great looks because the record company promoted Hoffs-led songs as singles. It ended up causing a rift among the girls, but over time and as the popularity of the band waned, those pressures tempered. Let’s just say it wasn’t as ugly as The Go-Go’s break-up.
Like lots of ’80s bands I’ve seen this year, the show was a balanced mix of classic hits and the best tracks off Sweetheart of the Sun. They opened with one of the strongest tracks, “Anna Lee” before guitar riffs signaled a “Hazy Shade of Winter.” Other classics included the Prince-penned “Manic Monday,” and two of my favorites, “If She Knew What She Wants” and “In Your Room.” I also loved Debbi Peterson singing lead on “Going Down to Liverpool.” What I found fascinating was how well balanced The Bangles are and how well they harmonize on every song they sing. Each sang lead on an equal number of songs with the others singing harmonies. And to see Debbi singing lead behind the drums was cool, and rare to see. When she stepped to center stage to sing a few of her songs, SNL veteran Fred Armisen took over on drums. What? I guess that happens in New York, but so odd.
Favorites off the new album included Debbi again singing lead on “Ball ‘n Chain,” and Susanna on “I’ll Never Be Through With You,” by far my favorite track on Sweetheart of the Sun. Susanna’s other highlight was “Under a Cloud.” Love this song. But it was “Eternal Flame,” The Bangles’ biggest hit, that got the most applause. So great. For the encore, they performed “Walk Like An Egyptian” and “Sweet and Tender Romance.” These girls are in their 50s now? Maybe late 40s? Still rocking out and sounding great. I’m a Bangler forever.