The Go-Go’s have been called the most successful all-female rock band of all time, and it’s a hard accolade to argue with. As the first all-female group to write their own songs and play their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts (with their 1981 debut, Beauty and the Beat), the group made history and served as an inspiration for numerous women in music who followed. The group had their heyday in the 1980s, and has remained a foundational band in the music of the era. Although they split initially in 1985, they have reunited several times, and since the release of their fourth ablum God Bless the Go-Go’s in 2001 they have continued to tour regularly. Wanting to go out on a high note, the band announced that they would be doing their final tour in 2016.
That tour came to the Warner Theatre, for the band’s last performance in Washington, DC, on Friday evening. The band started straight in with one of their biggest hits, “Vacation,” from their 1982 album of the same name. Someone who has only heard the band’s most popular songs might be forgiven for writing them off as bubblegum pop, but the twists and turns that the group took through their catalog proved otherwise. In addition to hits like “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat,” the band dug deep, playing album tracks such as “How Much More,” “Skid Marks On My Heart,” and “Get Up and Go,” as well as post-reunion tracks “Beautiful” and “Good Girl” (both of which appeared on the 1994 compilation Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s).
The real surprise of the night though was a trip back to the band’s punk roots. Drummer Gina Schlock came forward to introduce the songs, noting, “This is what we sounded like before the producers got ahold of us.” The band played a pair of tracks from that era, “Fun With Ropes” and “Screaming” (both of which have only been released as live recordings, also on the 1994 compilation). While the songs might serve more as a curiosity than a central part of the Go-Go’s catalog, they served as a clear example of how the band made the transition from punk to the new wave sounds they became known for.
The band also included several covers in their set. Their version of “Cool Jerk” by The Capitols originally appeared on Vacation. Two songs came from the careers of members outside of the band – singer Belinda Carlisle had a hit in 1986 after the split of the band with “Mad About You,” and “Cool Places” was a 1983 collaboration between Sparks and guitarist Jane Wiedlin (which appeared on the Sparks album In Outer Space). The group gave a nod to a more recent successful female performer with a cover of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus.
Show opener Best Coast played a long, twelve-song set, drawing primarily from their most recent, 2015 album California Nights, and from their 2010 debut album, Crazy For You. Highlights of the set included several singles from those albums, including “California Nights,” “Feeling OK,” and “Boyfriend,” as well as "The Only Place,” the title track (and only track they played) from their 2012 second album. Singer Bethany Cosentino commented on the importance The Go-Go’s had to her own career, noting that without them she might never have become a musician.
Also opening the show and representing a new generation of female musicanss was Kaya Stewart, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, who had a surprise hit last year with her debut single “In Love With a Boy.”