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Pop Music Review

Bangles Add Polish to '80s Act

September 23, 2000|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was delightfully nostalgic to see L.A. favorite daughters the Bangles play the Sunset Strip on Thursday, after more than a decade away. Although the '80s hit-makers enthusiastically bopped down memory lane during the first of three consecutive sold-out nights at House of Blues, they also highlighted new material.

In the late-'80s, the Bangles were a source of pride and hope for the local scene, a girl-group throwback that topped the charts with natural-sounding, '60s-inspired tunes at a time when wheezy, cheesy synth-pop ruled. Besides writing such stellar folky-melodic numbers as "Hero Takes a Fall," the quartet--Susanna Hoffs (guitar), Michael Steele (bass), and sisters Vicki (guitar) and Debbi Peterson (drums)--was known for selecting strong outside material and attracting admirers such as Prince, who gave them the No. 2 hit "Manic Monday."

Each member has kept musically active since the band's 1989 breakup, and Thursday's 90-minute set revealed chops sharply honed. If their '80s image-makers emphasized Hoffs, this time the original, democratic dynamic was clear, in both their traditional trading of lead-singer duties and the giddy camaraderie onstage.

Indeed, their expert four-part harmonizing was a highlight, as were such unexpected covers as the bluesy, Mose-Allison-via-Yardbirds "I'm Not Talking." Despite the occasional canned rhythm track provided by keyboardist Greg Hilfman when Debbi Peterson added another guitar to the mix, the old songs, liberated from their '80s sheen, sounded better than ever. The players' necessarily more adult viewpoints brought a mature poignancy and resolve to the new tunes, which were just as engaging as their hits.

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