Rock-n-Roll can be much more than just music, it can give someone the freedom to be themselves. That could be said for many youths growing up in a variety of economy and social situations, because regardless of who one is or where they come from, everyone has creative urges. Finding that out while still a teenager, California’s Belinda Carlisle has been in the business of Rock-n-Roll for four decades now. Having initially begun as a drummer in Punk Rock band the Germs, Carlisle stepped out from behind the kit soon to form a little band called The Go-Go’s with a group of friends. Taking her new position as lead vocalist, she and The Go-Go’s would soon go on to make history as the first all-female band ever to write and perform their own songs. If that was not enough, the band would also sell over eight million records and become one of the most successful of all-time.
While The Go-Go’s run came to an end in 1985, one closed door opened a new one for Carlisle as she embarked on what would be a hit-making solo career begun with her debut album, Belinda, in 1986. With a slew of memorable chart-topping hits and seven studio records to her name, Carlisle stood strong as a Pop Rock leader that fans adored. Fortunately for all, The Go-Go’s would return in 1990, 1994, and reunite for good in 2001, to match Carlisle’s solo career. Now in 2016, Carlisle embarks on only her second solo tour in the past fifteen years. Difficult to imagine that is the case, many may remember Carlisle’s spot on 2008’s Regeneration Tour, but this time around, Carlisle headlines her own tour with dates that began April 1st. Given the opportunity to offer fans a full set of her music, the tour found its way to Huntington, New York on Tuesday April 12th where a crowd packed into The Paramount for an unforgettable evening with Carlisle.
Setting the table for the evening of music, New York City based Natalie Mishell & Co were up first. A band put together by Mishell back in 2011, the lineup features Troy Fannin on lead guitar/backing vocals, Billy Grant on keyboards, Tony Oppenheimer on bass, and Dave LeBlanc on drums. Featuring a sound that combines Pop Rock, Folk Rock, as well as Americana, Mishell and her band provided a delightful mix of original tunes to The Paramount. Playing songs off their debut full-length album from 2013, Goodnight Stranger, the band showcased a maturity and well-written songs. A graceful figure on stage, Mishell seemed relaxed as she conversed with the audience in between songs and eased everyone into a groove. Those looking for thoughtful songs with warm, inviting vocals delivering stories of life should absolutely check out Natalie Mishell & Co.
With more and more guests arriving at The Paramount within the opening set, soon the floor of the venue was full with anxious fans. Packed close and tight, many were overheard speaking of the last time they saw Carlisle live at The Paramount back on July 3, 2014 with The Go-Go’s, or jogging their memories back to August 22, 2008 when Carlisle visited Jones Beach solo, a part of the aforementioned Regeneration Tour. Whatever the memory may be, this night would be a celebration of Carlisle’s thirtieth anniversary as a solo artist, and history was about to be made. That history, one of many at the premier Long Island based venue, which Carlisle even posted on her Facebook earlier in the day after loading in how beautiful The Paramount was. With all that said, the show was just about to begin after a set change and cheers began to pour down as Carlisle’s band approached the stage.
With the band in place, Carlisle soon followed, looking elegant and wearing the same smile she always has, lifting off the set with 1989 album title track “Runaway Horses.” Possessing the same powerful voice everyone knows and loves, Carlisle was quickly offering some The Go-Go’s material with 1984’s “Head Over Heels” before “(We Want) The Same Thing.” An interesting and refreshing way to start the set, Carlisle would revisit the Runaway Horses album later on, but not before treating the crowd to mega singles “I Get Weak” and “Circles in the Sand.” Both hits from the 1987 Heaven on Earth record, everyone had their cellphones in the air eager to grab video and photos of Carlisle as she danced from left to right on the stage, making sure to include everyone in the fun. Having everyone dancing and singing along loudly, it was a joyous combination.
Allowing the music to sink in a bit, Carlisle took the time to speak with the crowd, expressing how the evening was special in more than one way, that is because it was also her thirtieth wedding anniversary. A delightful bit of information to hear, especially in a time when it seems everyone is breaking up rather than getting together, Carlisle segued perfectly into the beautiful love song “Vision of You.” Taken well by the audience, Runaway Horses would continue to be a theme for the evening with Latino flavored “La Luna” to follow as Carlisle’s voice carried strongly through the air and continued to entice spectators to move along. That would come before more soaring vocals on “Summer Rain” and the romantic story telling of “Valentine.”
Having everyone deeply engaged, Carlisle would continue to keep the mood loose as she spoke vividly of her forty years in Rock-n-Roll and where the journey all began. Rather than go into every detail, the music would paint a picture of the outstanding career of Carlisle as she went into her final Runaway Horses offering, “Leave a Light On.” A light and airy Pop Rock track, it was a wonderful selection at this point in the show before Carlisle would give long-time The Go-Go’s fans the gifts of “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.” Equally powerful tracks, both had everyone’s hands in the air as they sang to each word and clapped along. Seeming as if the excitement level could not get much higher, Carlisle broke into her most successful solo single ever, “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and put The Paramount on cloud nine. A song many would consider more than just about love, Carlisle’s affectionate delivery brought the words to life as the day it was recorded three decades earlier. Nonetheless, it was the perfect set closer which saw Carlisle and company bid the lively crowd good night.
Hopeful to hear more, no one moved from their places on the floor, and moments later Carlisle returned with her band for an encore that began with 1993’s upbeat “Big Scary Animal” before she revisited The Go-Go’s one last time for another unforgettable track, “Vacation.” With absolutely no one standing still for the rendition of the latter track, Carlisle kept the energy flowing with the dreamy solo favorite “Mad About You,” which appeared to be the finale of the show. While it may have seemed so, a golden rule for any concert is to never leave until the house lights go on, and that remained true when Carlisle returned to the stage for one last song, offering a surprise cover of The Carpenters 1971 hit “Superstar.” A highly moving song to begin with, Carlisle did the track justice as her inflection was not only pitch on, but sincere from the heart.
What started out beginning as an ordinary Tuesday night turned into a celebration of music, life, and love. Carlisle’s pleasant approach to performing is still as entertaining as ever, and it was long overdue for her to hit the road solo again. With dates lined up through May 1st, there are reports she is working on a new solo album set for release in the near future. Furthermore, The Go-Go’s will be embarking on their farewell tour in August, which is a bittersweet goodbye for followers. Those who have not seen Carlisle solo or The Go-Go’s live are urged to do so for a show they will remember for years to come.