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Kerry Asmussen
The Bangles (Vicki Peterson, Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson)
Writing Credits:

One of the most successful female groups of all time, The Bangles make a triumphant return to their hometown of L.A. with their first ever concert DVD. The queens of power pop pull out all of their hits, from "Walk Like An Egyptian" to "Eternal Flame," along with early fan favorites like "Hero Takes A Fall." Extras include acoustic performances of "Ride The Ride" and Prince's "Manic Monday," a candid interview with the band about their storied history and a photo gallery with rare and never-before-seen photos.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 72 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 8/14/2007

• Audio Commentary with Band Members Vicki Peterson, Susanna Hoffs and Debbi Peterson
• Two Acoustic Performances
• “The Story of Bangleonia” Featurette
• Photo Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


The Bangles: Return To Bangleonia (Live In Concert) (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 8, 2007)

When the subject of the most successful all-female rock band emerges, it usually comes down to two candidates: the Bangles and the Go-go’s. Both experienced freakishly similar careers, as they hit it big in the Eighties, split after three albums, and reunited in later years. Neither recaptured their glory days, but both managed to rediscover their audiences.

If we’re going to look at the best female rock band, I’d probably pick Sleater-Kinney, but I do have a soft spot for the Bangles. Some of that came from the fact that I – like every other guy of my generation – had a crush on Susanna Hoffs. All the other Bangles were cute as well, but oh, Susanna! Cute, sexy and a rocker? Do women get any more appealing than that?

A couple of decades later, a live DVD called Return to Bangleonia reveals that Susanna remains just as crush-worthy as ever – heck, maybe even more so. Does the band’s music hold up just as well after all these years? Yeah, pretty much. Though the DVD reveals some fissures, it mostly reminds me why I always liked the Bangles.

Shot in September 2000 at LA’s House of Blues, Return’s 18 songs come from the Bangles’ three Eighties albums as well as some other sources. Off of 1984’s All Over the Place, we find “Hero Takes a Fall”, “Going Down to Liverpool”, and “Live”. 1986’s Different Light brings us “Manic Monday”, “September Gurls”, “If She Knew What She Wants”, “Angels Don’t Fall in Love” and “Walk Like an Egyptian”, while 1988’s Everything provides “In Your Room” and “Eternal Flame”. “Hazy Shade of Winter” appeared on the soundtrack to 1987’s Less Than Zero.

As for the other tunes, many were unreleased when shot at this show. “Stealing Rosemary”, “Between the Two”, “The Rain Song”, “Here Right Now”, and “I Will Take Care of You” eventually materialized on 2003’s Doll Revolution. (Vicki optimistically discusses an early 2001 release here; I don’t know what held up the album so long.) “Get the Girl” popped up on the soundtrack for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, while “Pushin’ Too Hard” is a cover of an old Seeds song that I don’t think the Bangles ever recorded.

Let’s get the ugly part of the review out of the way first. If you expect to hear sterling musicianship here, you’re out of luck. Return abounds with mistakes. I’m not picky about that, and I usually don’t notice goofs during shows. Maybe I’m a dope or maybe I’m just a go with the flow, whole is greater than the sum of the parts concert-goer, but most slip-ups escape my attention.

Return doesn’t allow for such blissful ignorance. From the opening guitar of “Hazy Shade of Winter”, we find bum notes, missed beats, quavering vocals, incorrect cues and other boners. Vicki’s leads tend to be particularly off through the performance. Don’t get me wrong: these don’t dominate the show. It’s not as if the Bangles sound like some high school garage band at their third show. Most of the music sounds just fine, and the Bangles were never virtuosos anyway. It’s just sloppier than you’d expect.

I expect some of this stems from the timing of the concert. I don’t know if Return represents the Bangles’ first reunion show in 2000, but if not, it came up pretty early in the tour. Perhaps if they’d been on the road for a while they’d be tighter.

On the other hand, the semi-novelty of the concert adds to some energy. The Bangles look darned happy to be together and playing again, so that attitude translates to the music. It may not be a great performance, but it’s fun.

The then-new songs blend well with the older stuff. The audience doesn’t seem all that happy to hear unfamiliar tunes, but they work anyway. The older material benefits from that sense of enthusiasm that came with the then-new reunion. Even though the band had played those tunes a billion times, they manage to make them pretty lively and fresh here.

Director Kerry Asmussen conveys the show with a minimum of fuss. The production lacks the quick cuts and gimmicks that mar so many live DVDs, but it also doesn’t seem stiff or staid. No, the presentation doesn’t boast memorable visual impact, as it ain’t Stop Making Sense or The Last Waltz. However, it’s more than competent, and it delivers the show in a satisfying manner. Given how unwatchable so many modern live DVDs can be, “satisfying” and “more than competent” border on high praise.

I can’t really lavish a great deal of plaudits on Return to Bangleonia, as it’s not a killer production. The band slip on more than a few occasions, and they probably would’ve sounded better with a few more shows under their reunited belts. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of charm and energy on display. This may not be a great live show, but it’s a fun one.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

The Bangles: Return to Bangleonia appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That’s a disappointment, though not a fatal flaw. Despite the lack of anamorphic enhancement, Return looked pretty good.

Sharpness took the biggest hit but still managed to seem more than acceptable. At times, wide shots tended to look a little indistinct, as those could have been more detailed. However, most of the elements came across as crisp and accurate, so I didn’t experience many disappointments in that regard. Shimmering and jaggies were surprisingly minor, and no source flaws or video artifacts appeared.

Colors looked terrific. Stage lighting created a warm environment with a lot of purple and deep red to be found. The hues came across as firm and rich at all times. They really seemed strong and acted as a highlight of the image. Blacks were also dark and dense, while the shadows appeared clear and smooth. I’m surprised that this thing looked so good without anamorphic enhancement, but I felt pretty pleased with the presentation. Though the softness almost resulted in a “B” grade, I liked it so much I went with the higher “B+”.

I also thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Return to Bangleonia satisfied. As one might expect with a live musical performance, the soundfield featured the front speakers most heavily. Those features blended together wonderfully well. Lead vocals stayed anchored in the center, while backing vocals spread smoothly across the speakers. (One lead exception: Michael’s lines for “Walk Like an Egyptian” localize in the right to match her place on stage even though Vicki’s on the left but her vocals appeared in the center.) The instrumentation seemed nicely localized but not excessively discrete, so the whole package melded together cleanly. The soundfield offered a seamless and natural presentation.

Surrounds kicked in some crowd noise and musical reinforcement but didn’t have much else to do. That was fine with me, as the music presented a good sense of the live setting. I noticed a little unique percussion in the rear during “Walk Like an Egyptian”, but otherwise the back speakers remained pretty passive.

The quality of the audio also seemed positive. Vocals were firm and natural. They appeared up front and concise and lacked any signs of problems. All instruments came across as accurate and fully developed. Highs displayed good bite and clarity, while bass response was deep and tight. All in all, the audio of Return seemed outstanding.

We find a few extras here. The most intriguing is an audio commentary with band members Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson. (Michael Steele quit the band in 2005.) All three sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They talk about the songs in the concert and give us thoughts about many of these tunes. We also hear about experiences with various collaborators, concert specifics and many Bangle memories from their glory years.

I went into this commentary with some trepidation, as I feared the Bangles would have little to say. Happily, they provide quite a lot of quality insights and deliver these in a fun manner. They don’t take things too seriously but they make sure we get many interesting notes. The commentary rarely drags as it becomes an enjoyable piece.

Next we find two acoustic performances. We hear “Manic Monday” and Doll Revolution’s “Ride the Ride”. Neither comes in front of an audience. Instead, there are living room performances conducted for purposes unknown. Whatever the case, they’re interesting alternate renditions, and the intimate setting adds to their appeal.

A featurette called The Story of Bangleonia runs 16 minutes, 20 seconds. It presents a joint interview session with Susanna, Vicki and Debbi. They talk about how the Bangles came together and their earliest days, some scary gigs, pre-concert rituals, their collaboration with Prince, comparisons between being Bangles in the Eighties and today, and thoughts about some modern female musicians. As with the commentary, the ladies prove charming and informative here. We get more fun stories and these help make “Story” useful.

We also discover a Photo Gallery. It presents 28 shots from over the years. I like this collection, though I wish it were more extensive.

At the disc’s start, we get ads for Dick Cavett: Rock Legends, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk and New Wave and The Blasters: Going Home.

With Return to Bangleonia, we get documentation of the Bangles’ 2000 return to the public eye. Though the show suffers from more than a few missteps, it boasts enough peppiness and fun to make it enjoyable. The DVD presents positive picture, terrific audio and a mix of interesting extras. All that and a list price of only $15 make Return a must-have for Bangles fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7647 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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