POP MUSIC REVIEW : Tricks, Treats From Oingo Boingo in Irvine

S hould old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind. . . .

Oops, wrong holiday. But with the deep chill that descended Thursday night, it certainly felt as if the 15,000 souls at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre ought to have been gathered for some sort of mid-winter festivities. While the weather could almost have passed for New Year’s Eve in Hoboken, the calendar said it was Halloween. And in Irvine, Halloween means Oingo Boingo.

With its horror-is-fun-but-still-sort-of-eerie sensibility, its conducive dance rhythms, and its front man topped by curls the color of a ripe pumpkin, Boingo has long since proven itself a made-to-order Halloween party band--which is why the Los Angeles outfit has been coming back to Irvine Meadows every Halloween season since 1986. Thursday night’s sold-out show opened a three-night stand, ending tonight.

Since its last haunting of Irvine, Oingo Boingo had been only slightly more active than a vampire at noon. Leader Danny Elfman and company had no new material to offer, so the show really was about renewing old acquaintance.


Boingo made it an acquaintance worth renewing. The standard critical gripe about the band remains in effect: Most of Elfman’s early material is too fast, too frenzied, too rabidly theatrical. But since the mid-'80s Elfman has tempered his writing and emerged as an assured melodist. Most of the 31 songs Boingo played in the 2 1/2-hour concert reflected that melodic knack and were a pleasure to encounter again.

Elfman worried aloud about rustiness and a sore throat that prompted him to swaddle his neck in a winter scarf. But his voice held up well and the band, a potent octet, warmed up quickly.

Having left MCA, its longtime label, Boingo is reportedly about to sign a new record deal. Maybe by next Halloween, we’ll have some tasty new treats to spice yet another “Dead Man’s Party.”