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MAINSTREAM : Clouds Part, Crowd on Its Feet for Oingo Boingo

November 02, 1987|DUNCAN STRAUSS

The (rain) gods must be crazy--or maybe just big Oingo Boingo fans. The showers that soaked the Southland most of Saturday halted just before the L.A. band's Halloween extravaganza at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

And Boingo had barely finished its encores when it began sprinkling again.

It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, or the rain gods. But maybe the guy who looked exactly like Pope John Paul II--tooling around the rim of the amphitheater before show time in a makeshift Popemobile--confused them all just enough to help keep the proceedings dry.

Assuming this papal-looking chap wasn't really the Pope, his get-up probably would have taken top honors, had there been a costume contest. And while many of the costumes planned for the concert were no doubt jettisoned in favor of rain gear, there was no shortage of good people-watching--or creature-watching--during the 50-minute delay before the concert finally started. What we saw ranged from the usual stuff, like nuns and devils, to slightly more twisted approaches (the guy with the hog nose on his forehead, the duo in full skeleton costumes and masks, wearing sombreros--actually a nod to the cover art of Boingo's "Dead Man's Party" album).

Much as these folks seemed to enjoy parading about, and much as they had an appreciative audience, the real show began when Oingo Boingo hit the stage and eased into the mid-tempo "Dead Man's Party." Although lyrically the tune made for an appropriate opener, it is emblematic of the octet's ongoing musical shift that it launched the set with a slow (for Boingo) selection--rather than a hyperactive rocker such as "Who Do You Want to Be."

The band now actually has a batch of slower, smoother material that it can draw on to intersperse among the edgy, bubbling, full-throttle pop that defined its earliest output. Songs such as "Home Again" and "Stay" are sufficiently melodic and pretty that you could take them home to Mom (OK, so Mom would have to be a little on the hip side to fully appreciate them). Oingo Boingo has clearly come a long way since the days it seemed little more than an industrial-strength Devo.

On the last two albums, leader Danny Elfman has demonstrated a much broader songwriting approach, which may reflect the added competence and confidence he gained through scoring such films as "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" and "Back To School."

But whether the music Saturday was fast or slow, old or new, the capacity crowd was on its collective feet the entire evening. And those feet were being put to good use, especially whenever Boingo strung together its idea of dance tunes for coffee achievers. One such string featured "Dead or Alive," "Who Do You Want to Be," "Private Life" and "Help Me"--all loaded with clipped notes and Elfman's pumped-up Chick Hearn vocals. It was this kind of stretch (and there were plenty of others) that made the concert the furthest thing possible from a "Dead Man's Party."

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