- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2016

They’ve still go the beat — and the Go-Go’s are bringing it back to the nation’s capital Friday as part of their farewell tour.

First formed in 1978, the reunited Go-Go’s will play such hits as “Vacation,” “Our Lips Are Sealed” and, of course, “We Got the Beat” at the Warner Theatre, where they will share the bill with Best Coast and Kaya Stewart.

“Back in the early ‘80s, we would tour 200 days each year [but since reuniting in 1990] we just tour a few months out of the year,” Go-Go’s rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Jane Wiedlin told The Washington Times. “It’s a lot easier.”

A less grueling touring schedule also benefits the individual band members, who are now spread around the globe far from the band’s formative Los Angeles stomping grounds. Miss Wiedlin lives in Hawaii; lead singer Belinda Carlisle resides in France; and drummer Gina Schock is a resident of San Francisco. Only guitarist Charlotte Caffey still resides in L.A.

“It’s like riding a bike,” Miss Wiedlin said of rehearsing the old tunes in Los Angeles with her bandmates prior to every tour. “Over the years we’ve perfected our set. We don’t change a ton of the songs, because there are a lot that are fan favorites, and we have to do them.

“For the final tour we plan on introducing a lot of material that we haven’t done either ever or in a really long time, so that will be a bit of a challenge.”

Miss Wiedlin was part of the initial lineup of the girl group — who write all their own songs — until the band split up in 1985. During the five-year gap until its reformation, Miss Wiedlin pursued both a solo singing career as well as acting. One of her most notable roles was as Joan of Arc in the cult hit “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

“All those character actors that played the historical figures were all just a hoot to be around,” Miss Wiedlin recalls of the Arizona shoot. “There was really not much to do but hang out at the bar every night. So there was a lot of drinking and wild tales being told.”

Asked if she hopes to appear in the yet-to-be-realized third film in the series, Miss Wiedlin laughs and says: “I wish they’d bring back the ghost of Joan of Arc.”

She also had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” for which she said her agent “begged and begged” the casting director for the film, which was directed by Leonard Nimoy.

“Definitely one of my favorite moments of my life,” the actress and longtime “Star Trek” fan said of her fictional trip into outer space.

During the band’s early-‘80s heyday, the Go-Go’s and many of their contemporaries would constantly bump into one another along the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, where musicians were as often in the audience as gracing the stages of The Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, Rainbow Room and others.

“It was a big mix of different styles of music happening at the same time,” Miss Wiedlin recalls of those halcyon days. “On any given night you’d see guys with big hair and makeup and then punk rock guys. [The artists] you’d see on stage would also be the people you’d see in the audience because it was a relatively small scene.”

The scene was not only great for musicians to support one another, but also to enable habits.

“We did a ton of drugs with other people in others bands,” Miss Wiedlin said. “That was a long time ago,” she said, adding she is not promoting their use, only recollecting her own experience.

“People are like ‘stop promoting drugs,’ and I’m like ‘I’m just admitting I took a lot of drugs — big deal,’” she said with a laugh. “‘Granny Jane said it’s all right!’ I am not saying that; I’m just being truthful.”

Rather than go into greater detail, Miss Wiedlin invites those wishing to know more about the excesses of the 1980s to read the nonfiction book “Under the Big Black Sun” that details those years.

On the current wave of nostalgia tours, Miss Wiedlin says there is never any competition when ‘80s bands share the same bill.

“It’s always very friendly,” she said of touring with the likes of the B-52’s, the Motels and the Psychedelic Furs.

Miss Wiedlin and her bandmates have played all over the world, including selling out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl, but she and the Go-Go’s are adamant this tour will definitively be their last.

“We’re going to be retiring as a touring entity,” she said, but adding that the show of show business will continue as the Go-Go’s are working on a new musical, “Head Over Heels,” which they hope to bring to Broadway in 2017.

“There’s still lot of stuff going on for the band,” she said.

While those who typically come to Go-Go’s shows are contemporaries of the band — whose members are all in their fifties and sixties — Miss Wiedlin enthused that their music reaches across generations.

“We get a lot of young girls, which we always feel really happy about,” she said. “We like to encourage young women to learn instruments and start songwriting — bust out the glass ceiling in the music industry that still exists.”

In fact, Miss Wiedlin aims to appeal to the younger music fans when the band officially hangs up the mic after this tour. Always a songwriter, she dreams of collaborating with such millennial darlings as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.

Miss Wiedlin exclaimed that one of the benefits of coming out to see the Go-Go’s is that, unlike the records, she and her fellow musicians can turn up both the attitude and the volume in live performance.

“We play a lot bigger and harder and stronger than we do on the records,” she said, “which, in my mind, sound pretty rinky-dinky compared to our live sound.”

The bands that spawned the music nostalgia fans now clamor to see live are indeed having their second wind, and Miss Wiedlin remains thankful that the fans have continued to come out and support she and her fellow Go-Go’s for three-plus decades.

“The fact that we’re still doing it, and we’re still drawing pretty big crowds, makes me feel like we made it,” she said.

“We did OK.”

The Go-Go’s headline a show alongside Best Coast and Kaya Stewart Friday at the District’s Warner Theatre, located at 513 13th St NW, Washington, D.C., 20004. Tickets are available by going to LiveNation.com.

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