The iconic 80s girls group, The Bangles, will take the stage Wednesday night in the next edition of the city’s free Summer Concert Series at Stewart Park.
If you want to put a label on her, fine. Vicki Peterson is a suburban wife and mom from the Valley. She Skype’s her teenage daughter, who is studying abroad. She shops for groceries. She vacuums, for heaven’s sake.
But that’s just her day job.
By night, she still puts on a short skirt, a sparkly top and throws her guitar over her shoulder as she has for the better part of three decades, and kicks out both retro and new music as one of the lead singers of The Bangles.
Like many bands of the 70s and 80s, The Bangles are experiencing a renaissance, playing mid-size venues to old and new audiences alike. Wednesday night, they visit Beaumont as part of the city’s fifth-annual Summer Concert Series. The concert, which is free to all, begins at 7 p.m. at Stewart Park, located at Ninth and Orange streets.
Guitarist, songwriter and lead singer along with Susanna Hoffs, Peterson said the evening will not only feature songs from their upcoming album, “Sweetheart of the Sun,” but all the megahits that started their career.
“We’re not going to torture them (the fans) with just new stuff. That’s just mean,” Peterson said with a laugh in a phone interview last week. “We’re slightly …thrilled, grateful and kind of amazed. My mom says, ‘Oh people love to hear you.’ Some of it is just the cycle of nostalgia and the way pop culture recycles its own influences.
“We’re definitely not concerned about being rock stars. I don’t care. We’re already thinking about the next (album). You have a domestic life and kids and talking to my teenage daughter on Skype and things.”
But through the journey from mini skirt to minivan, the three women that make up the heart of the band – Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson – have kept their passion for the music that made them famous.
Unlike the top girl groups of the 80s, including the Go Go’s and Bananarama, the Bangles had a stronger rock presence while still hitting the right pop notes of the era.
Their diversity and ability to switch from rock anthem to rock ballad was always present. For every Top 10 wedding reception anthem like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” the Bangles would hit back with the ethereal “Eternal Flame.” Where the original “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel was a folk-music classic, the Bangles covered it and made it edgy and sultry for the 1987 movie “Less Than Zero.” Other top hits of the Bangles include “Manic Monday” and “Hero Takes a Fall.”
As a group, it was always their harmonies that made them special. Their sound has been compared to everyone from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to The Mamas and the Papas. Not only does Peterson harmonize naturally with her sister, who is also the band’s drummer, but she is married to John Cowsill of the 60s group, The Cowsills, who practically invented sibling harmonies.
“That’s something that never went away (the harmonies),” Peterson said. “When we lose focus of that, we lose what’s special about the band. We were the first three that started the band, just us singing together. Then it clicked. It was an interesting sound.”
After going their separate ways for a few years, they got back together in the late 90s and started writing, then recording. Peterson points out that they have been together in this incarnation longer (12 years) than they were originally.
Peterson said their music, and their career, has come full circle.
“When I’m playing now, I’m in the moment thinking about the crowd in front of me,” Peterson said. “Enjoying it, how things are sounding. On the other hand, when we have an opportunity to talk about our experiences or watch old videos, which I only do with a gun to my head, everything is infused with a sense of gratitude and appreciation. We feel very lucky.”
For more on the band, go to their website at www.thebangles.com.