In press materials for her recent solo album, “Someday,” Susanna Hoffs asserts that the collection “was inspired by my yearning to sing songs that were as melodic and emotional as my favorite music of the 1960s.” The Bangles’ front woman brought that love for pure, upbeat pop to Jammin Java on Halloween night, opening with an endearing version of The Searchers’ “When You Walk In The Room,” ending with a tender take on The Association’s “Never My Love,” and placing a soulful “Willin'” (a Little Feat song given second life by Linda Ronstadt) in the middle.
New material from “Someday” was also scattered throughout the show, and those songs – “November Sun,” “Picture Me” and “Raining” – reflected her success in capturing the bouyant grooves, baroque folk/pop songcraft and easy-on-the-ear melodies of her inspirations. But, of course, it was the Bangles songbook that the audience was most psyched to hear, and she answered the call with solid versions of “Manic Monday,” “Eternal Flame,” “Walk Like An Egyptian” “In Your Room,” and “Hero Takes a Fall” as part of the planned set while also heeding an audience request for “If She Knew What She Wants,” giving her bassist a quick rundown of how to play the song.
Although the evening’s song selections (see the actual set list, as left on the stage) spanned numerous decades and composers, two things kept the night a consistent pleasure. The first was Hoffs’ four-man band, which played with clean, pop precision and dressed in costume for the occasion – props to drummer Jim Laspesa’s classic Beatles suit and bowl-cut hair and bassist Derrick Anderson’s Jimi Hendrix dandy-ism (Hoffs herself opted for a simple black dress and cat ears).
The second, and key, element was Hoffs herself, whose voice hasn’t lost a smidgeon of power over time (she’s 53, and still looks great, too), containing both a playful exuberance and sophisticated subtlety that stands up well next to her idols like Lulu, Jackie DeShannon and Petula Clark. She was also relaxed and chatty, engaging in brief exchanges with the crowd, remarking that the casual, easy pace of a solo show at Jammin Java was a sharp contrast to the roller-coaster intensity of a typical Bangles show.
And while it’s true that the night never reached any true rock-and-roll epiphanies (“Hero Takes a Fall” was the only real high-energy number in the set), the full-house crowd was perfectly content to spend roughly 90-minute in Hoffs’ pure-pop-for-nice-people company.
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