By Brendon Veevers | SDUN Reporter
The 1980s may very well be a distant memory, but when iconic singer-songwriter Susanna Hoffs hit town recently, nostalgia was out and proud as the pint-sized songbird booked a very intimate performance at Little Italy’s Anthology on Nov. 13.
Visiting the venue, which acts as both a restaurant and concert space that regularly plays host to some of the best musical acts around, Hoffs performed a collection of both old and new recordings from her time in the chart-topping female band, the Bangles, as well as her solo career. Contemporary hits were principally songs from her recent release, “Someday,” her first solo record in 16 years.
The performance couldn’t have been more intimate. As the singer sang her way through a string of hits spanning her 30 years as a recording artist, the audience dined and looked on as hits like “Eternal Flame” and “Manic Monday” were delivered with nostalgic splendor.
In town to promote “Someday,” it seemed only appropriate that various songs from the release found a place here. Among the new recordings were the syrupy “November Sun” and “Always Enough,” additions that were met with an adoring applause from the crowd. Sweet mid-tempo hits like “Picture Me,” “One Day” and the stunning up-tempo gem, “Raining,” also found home throughout the evening.
Showing her humorous and laid-back side, Hoffs frequently made small talk with the crowd and welcomed questions from the audience between songs, if she wasn’t busy telling her percussionist off for texting a friend in the crowd while they roared with laughter, Hoffs edging them on. She also told anecdotes and stories from her career, including the story behind the Bangles’ version of the Paul Simon-penned hit “Hazy Shade Of Winter” as well as brief nods to Hoffs’ upbringing, such as her time working in a ceramics factory prior to the band’s international breakthrough.
While new recordings were dotted throughout the night, so was the occasional cover. Hoffs opened with the iconic Jackie DeShannon hit, “When You Walk In The Room.” With its distinctive guitar-picked riff, the song invited us into a performance overflowing with Hoffs’ sweetly scented vocals. The Beatles’ 1963 penning “All I’ve Got To Do” was also given a makeover, while “Willin’” – made famous by Little Feat back in 1971 – showcased Hoffs’ nurturing vocals, which fell confidently within the folk-inspired ballad as her percussionist seasoned the number with a subtle tambourine and egg-shaker driven rhythm.
The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” stole the spotlight in the center of the set. Stripped back and guided by the gentle guitar strumming of band mate and “Someday” co-composer Andrew Brassell, her right-hand man whom she described as being a “punk boy in a tie,” the number has clearly stood the test of time as the singer performed it with heart and soul. A brief, yet complimenting and Southern-scented guitar solo, mixed with Hoffs’ gorgeously breathy tones took us on a journey right down memory lane.
The up-tempo classic “Walk Like An Egyptian” welcomed in a rougher edged instrumentation, this time with the use of an electric guitar that gave the track a raw and rocky revival as it was performed back to back with one of the band’s more recent recordings, “Under A Cloud.” Hoffs also provided the performance of “Walk Like An Egyptian” with a pair of seductive side-glances, which we first saw in the video for the song and have since become a famous trademark for the singer.
“Manic Monday” was thrown into a medley containing “Sunday Morning” and “Femme Fatale” as well as a brief sample of the Prince hit “1999,” which Hoffs later confessed to having always wanted to perform. It was an appropriate sample given that Prince wrote the iconic Bangles hit for the group in the ’80s.
Other Bangles hits found nesting spots within the set, including the charming 1988 soft-rock hit “In Your Room” as well as some of the band’s earlier singles, including “If She Knew What She Wants.”
Rather than doing the usual encore charade, Hoffs played on and ended the evening’s performance with “Never My Love,” a song that she described as being “a message of love” to the audience for their support over the years.
With a voice that sounds as fresh and youthful as it was when the singer broke the mainstream back in the 1980s, Hoffs was every bit the entertainer we hoped for throughout the evening. It was a real treat to see the performance at San Diego’s Anthology, witnessing a musical icon deliver such timeless hits and with such passion and precision.
Nov. 13 concert set list
When You Walk In the Room
Manic Monday / 1999 / Sunday Morning / Femme Fatale
All I’ve Got to Do
Hazy Shade Of Winter
All I Want
In Your Room
Hero Takes A Fall
Under A Cloud
Walk Like An Egyptian
If She Knew What She Wants
Going Down To Liverpool
Never My Love