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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Bangles Are Queens of Homecoming Concert

No surprises, but a triumphant homecoming nonetheless. Performing before a capacity crowd at the Santa Monica Civic on Saturday, the Bangles socked out a sparkling 90-minute set that stretched from the top of today’s charts back to those halcyon daze when the girls graced the stage of the Whisky, lo, these seven, eight years ago.

They still grace the stage. No corny costume changes. No kootch dancing. No sticking guitars between their legs. No labored call ‘n’ response routines. No desperate solicitations for affection. No pandering.

No. They sang, they played. And when you can sing as well as Susanna Hoffs, Michael Steele, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson, you don’t have to stoop to conquer.

Quick: How many other groups have four capable lead singers? And what other rock groups--male or female--have ever sung four-part harmonies with the style and precision of this fabulous feminine foursome?

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Let’s see, there’s the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Hollies, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield (and their legion of imitators/spinoffs) and. . . ?

Yeah, and how many of those acts who are still functioning are worth the price of a ticket today?

Of course, some of the band’s self-confidence comes from racking up a half-dozen hits over the past five years, especially when the most recent (the power ballad “Eternal Flame”) is the biggest yet.

Opening with a driving version of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” and closing with the pharoahest-of-'em-all silliness of “Walk Like an Egyptian” the Bangles’ show was superbly paced, sprinkling major (“Manic Monday,” “If She Knew What She Wants”) and minor (“Hero Takes a Fall,” “Walking Down Your Street”) hits atop a crop of tunes taken from their current “Everything” LP like so much sugar-plum fairy dust.

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Energetic and democratic, the evening was not without a couple of semi-spontaneous moments. Tossing a tease chorus of “I Fought the Law” onto the intro of “If She Knew . . .” for one. And it’s not only nice to hear the local girls still honor ‘60s L.A. popfolkrocker Emmitt Rhodes by pulling the old Merry-Go-Round number “Live” out from under their nuevo-retro punkadelic funk ‘n’ finery, but also comforting to hear that Hoffs, introducing a song about being rejected, can confess that this had happened to her once .

Judging by Saturday’s crowd, the Bangles appeal to everyone from dedicated followers of ‘60s fashion (lotsa vests, paisley, miniskirts, dangling earrings and long hair) to couldn’t-care-less surfer dudes ‘n’ dates, ranging in age from kindergarten though second mortgage.

And if seeing the Bangles makes little girls go home and beg their parents for electric guitars, who but the neighbors can complain?


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