In 2010, Belinda Carlisle announced the Go-Go's were on their final tour, aptly titled "The Farewell Tour." However, the tour was cancelled after guitarist Jane Wiedlin injured her knee and instead, last year, they went on a "Ladies Gone Wild" tour commemorating 30 years since the release of the multi-platinum "Beauty and the Beat."
Whether or not tonight's sold-out show at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Northern Lights Theater was part of their last tour or not is uncertain, but regardless, the ladies put on one hell of a show. Short, at only an hour and 15 minutes, but extremely vivacious, peppy and exactly what one would have expected from the punk-pop power quartet three decades ago.
The original five Go-Go's were billed as being a part of tonight's show, but supposedly bassist Kathy Valentine had broken a bone and was not with the group. The other four original members – Wiedlin, Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey and Gina Schock – delivered a short-but-intense set.
Most of the material was drawn from 1981's "Beauty And The Beat." Although the concert opened with music from the song "Eye Of The Tiger," that never went anywhere further (thankfully), they busted out with a lesser-known cut from "Beauty" called "This Town."
The grrls then launched into the big hit from their second album and title track, "Vacation," followed by "Tonight," "How Much More," "Get Up And Go," "Mad About You" (a Carlisle solo-career song), "Lust To Love," "Stuck In My Car," a medley of "Automatic" and "Fading Fast," "Unforgiven" (co-written by Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong), "Skid Marks On My Heart," "We Got The Beat" and "Our Lips Our Sealed."
They also performed a cover of "Cool Jerk" – which they recorded for their second album, "Vacation" – during which they invited members of the audience on stage. They encored with a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" followed by a spirited "Head Over Heels."
The Go-Go's formed in 1978 in Los Angeles and became a part of the late '70s punk movement. They shared rehearsal space with the band X and played at the hottest local punk venues of the time, including Whisky A Go Go and The Masque.
The band transitioned from punk to pop, released "Beauty," pissed off some hardcore punk fans but settled, momentarily, into MTV-inspired success. However, creative conflict and drug problems split up the band in May 1985, after they released two more less commercially successful albums.
The Go-Go's spent more than a decade at odds, but they eventually settled differences and reunited for the 2001 album, "God Bless The Go-Gos." A trace of the person-to-person disconnect might have been detected tonight between Carlisle and Schock, but it was subtle. Schock was quirky, and she might even have annoyed Carlisle, when she introduced the band with a cowboy hand puppet. Other band members joked she was drunk.
Wiedlin, as always, was the darling of the show. As a native of Oconomowoc and former resident of West Allis, she expressed her Wisconsin love, and ended the show with, "Go, Pack!" She also made humorous commentary like when she noted that the Northern Lights Theater, because of the seating up against the stage's edge, makes it feel more like a "gentleman's club" than a concert venue.
"And my cousin is here, which makes it really kinda creepy," she said.
All in all, it was a total feel-good concert, especially for those of us who came of age during the Go-Go's first time around, and they proved that age has nothing to do with rousing the audience. Despite Milwaukeean's reputation of always staying seated during shows, about half the crowd stood and danced during "We Got The Beat" and "Our Lips Our Sealed."
The band's choice to cover Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was perhaps the most telling of their forever young-ness. Lyrics like "Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my number, call me, maybe" suggest that these women are not really 50-something, rather, like many of us, forever 18 or 19 or 25 at heart.
Carlisle looked particularly youthful, but made jokes revealing her age like, "Anyone remember the '80s? Good, because I don't."
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