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The Bangles and The Last at The Whisky, Friday, December 9, 2016, Reviewed

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Tonight I saw the past of rock and roll and it’s name was The Bang(les).

The Bangles, yes, The Bangles are in the middle of playing three sold-out shows in their hometown of L.A. Now, I am running on no sleep here in over 24 hours so forgive me if I jump around a bit. I first saw The Bangs at the ON Klub back in 1982 I believe. The Three O’Clock and Rain Parade were on that bill also. It was a preview of what later became known as “The Paisley Underground” movement. The first thing that struck me about The Bangs were the harmonies. These young ladies could sing! Vocally, it was more reminiscent of hometown folks, The Mama and Papas than The Beach Boys. The second thing this young guy noticed was the bass player Annette Zilinskas. This energetic California girl wearing a mini skirt with her hair fashioned in a bob was every mod boy’s dream girl! I know this is shallow but I’m a guy, okay. We are mostly shallow. Man, I had a crush on her for a long time. I even was next to her at a Replacements show at Al’s Bar….and she talked to me!! But that is for another time..anyways, after a few recordings Annette decided to leave the band to pursue other musical ventures..It was shocking news at the time.  Annette left The Bangs, wow! So The Bangs became The Bangles and Susanna Hoffs was groomed as the main focus of attention in the band, even though the Peterson sisters were highly efficient and very attractive too.  Prince, fame, Columbia Records, big arenas all played a part in their rise to the stars and this all doesn’t matter…

The Bangles-Whisky stint is a return to their roots. In 1985, they opened for The Last. Tonight, the billing was turned. Joe Nolte of The Last made a few comments in this regard. The Last were a pioneering power pop punk surf band that included three Nolte brothers. Tonight, the original members, Vitus Matare and Jack Reynolds and a Nolte son was involved. (Forgive me. I did NOT plan on writing a review of this show, hence the lack of deep detail…was MOVED to write about this show.) They played a solid set and many in the crowd came to see them. This is why I was attracted to this night. I was at the show with Philo, the guitarist of The Last, who sat out this reunion show. The Last brought it and was a great way to open the evening.

Okay, The Bangles set was waaaay cool. Imagine throwing a party and the band you hired was well versed in the history of L.A. rock and psychedelia. Plus could sing their butts off and play like an experienced touring machine but kept some soul stuffed deep in their hearts . This is what it felt like. It was filled with special guests, including Fred Armisen who played drums on “Going Down to Liverpool” and the original original before “The Bangs” bassist (see didn’t catch names, ugh), Annette Z. played on a few tunes, Rusty Anderson from Paul McCartney’s band (I think) played cool guitar on a few tunes too. Dig, mostly old songs were mined here, a couple forays into the CBS vaults, “Manic Monday”, and of course the crowd pleasing “Walk Like an Egyptian” (meh), in between all that was “Mary Street” a rocking “James” “I’m in Line” “Want You” “September Gurls” (sung by Susanna), “In Your Room” a great “Hero Takes a Fall”, and I must say, when Susanna sang “In Your Room” it brought back memories of an ex girlfriend singing right to the heart of this guy…”If She Knew What She Wants” was just perfect pop confection with Hoffs again making every dude in the audience falling in love…I will say this about Susanna, age has done nothing but make her even more genuinely beautiful. She appeared so waiflike onstage and they all really looked great (I heard joking before the show how like they are 60 years old…not true). Sometimes these nostalgia type shows bring more sadness than gladness. Not this one! There was a real buzz in the crowd. It was great seeing them in their true element and not a few miles away from fans in an arena. Their real garage chops came out. They even covered L.A.’s The Seeds “Pushin’ Too Hard” and encored with a tribute of L.A.’s gods’ Love with “7 and 7 Is” suggested by Annette. By the way, Annette’s playing with them really drove the band forward. It felt genuine and defined their real sound. I feel she may have been responsible for their sound during the band’s incubation period before the majors gave orders. The last song of the night was a version of “Eternal Flame”, performed off mike ala Jonathan Richman who just happened to be playing in town a few miles away, that brought the house to virtual silence with Hoffs caressing the phrasing in new ways as the super talented Peterson sisters sang in their trademark back up vox.

Again, I had no urge to review this show beforehand. When the lights came up, the smiles were all around and we all sorta meandered to enjoy the feel good vibe that was left reverberating in this classic venue. L.A. music man and historian Jordan Schwartz and I both agreed this was magical…one hell of a show…that we had witnessed history. We were truly spoiled. They won’t be doing shows like these in New York or Montana. For it is Los Angeles, from whence they came, and I had a feeling that they were sealing some sort of history here tonight. I felt like I had come full circle also. The feelings I had when I first saw them but was lost when I saw them later at big venues, came back to me. This was a great garage band that knew musical history, was good enough, talented enough and smart enough to pull this event off! The Bangles are a garage band. This is the ultimate compliment my friends. They are not too big to have a party and name names. Bless you ladies. Thank you Bang(les) for lighting the eternal flame that sometimes is doused due to many outside reasons. The time was right for dancing at The Whisky.

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