- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 27, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Bangles, one of the most successful girl bands in the history of pop rock, concluded a two-day stint at the intimate Rams Head On Stage by taking an older, sold-out crowd back to the group’s early days.

Sure, The Bangles made a major impact with huge hits such as that annoying Egyptian walking song in the late 1980s but they started as a hip garage band in Los Angeles years earlier mixing 1960s-inspired British and American pop influences with angelic harmonies to craft an edgy, infectious sound.

In support of their recently released vintage compilation, “Ladies And Gentlemen … The Bangles,” singer/rhythm guitarist Susanna Hoffs, singer/lead guitarist Vicki Peterson and singer/drummer Debbi Peterson took to the stage to offer roughly 75 minutes of music spanning their career.

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Although, more than often, they took this reviewer back to the first time he first ever heard the band.

Specifically, as a college sophomore in the very early 1980s, it was quite a treat to see four girls rocking hard with a sparse crowd in a commons area of my school.

Back then the band displayed a less refined but aggressively enthusiastic sound. Thankfully, they gloriously embraced it this night at the Rams Head.

Songs such as “Mary Street,” “Want You,” “I’m In Line” and “The Real World” might have been long forgotten, once relegated to an out-of-print record from 1982, but they came back to life with welcomed energy bursts for each tune from the guitar-driven arrangements.

In fact, over 50 percent of the almost two dozen songs played during the night were from their first two albums, the five-song 1982 EP, “Bangles”; and Columbia Records’ 1984 full-length debut of “All Over the Place.”

It was definitely stripped down, vintage garage rock all night. Moments such as starting the wrong song, bending a string on a lead a bit too out of tune, finicky guitar pedals and a few sound technical difficulties offered a most exposed, but gloriously gutsy, version of the musicians in the confined space.

They plowed through additional charting numbers such as “Hero Takes a Fall,” the Prince-written “Manic Monday” and “If She Knew What She Wants.” They also mixed in a solid group of cover songs, including Simon & Garfunkel’s “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” featuring that pulse chest-pounding drum part, and a rollicking Nazz staple “Open My Eyes.”

It’s worth noting that the stick-wielding Miss Peterson is one of the more underrated drummers in the genre. Between her sledgehammer foot, tasty fills and the ability to not only sing harmonies but also lead vocals on many songs including “Going Down to Liverpool,” she is quite the formidable presence.

However, on a slightly sour note, I was disappointed that a female was not wielding a bass. No disrespect to a very competent Derrick Anderson hanging out in the back all night but the presence of either Michael Steele or Annette Zilinskas was sorely missed.

Surely, the band could have found a talented female bassist looking to play with her heroes on this smaller scale tour?

An encore gave the most superficial of fans what they waited for, The Bangles’ most commercially successful songs and their No. 1 charting hits.

First an acoustic version of “Walk Like An Egyptian” got the crowd to their feet and mimicking the famed music video. It was nice to hear Debbi sing a verse, her vocal lead not found on the original recorded track.

Next, what proved to be the purest version of “Eternal Flame,” that any hard-core fan could hope for. Technical difficulties forced Miss Hoff’s to sing the song sans a microphone with the group following suit and quietly accompanying her.

Not only did it showcase the singer’s unenhanced, passionate vocal style but gave the appreciative crowd a chance to admire the trio’s combined, raw talent that has blessed the Bangles for over three decades.

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