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Review: ’80s pop music icon hits the concert trail instead of retiring

Review: ’80s pop music icon hits the concert trail instead of retiring

The year 2023 isn’t turning out the way Belinda Carlisle originally expected.

“I was planning on retiring and going up to the hills,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who was enshrined as the member of The Go-Go’s in 2021.

Instead of retiring, however, Carlisle finds herself out on the road with the career-spanning Decades Tour, which kicked off the West Coast portion of its run with a solid show at the Meritage Resort in Napa on Friday (Aug. 18).

What happened?

Diane Warren happened.

The Grammy-winning songwriter – who penned Carlisle’s 1987 smash “I Get Weak” – reached out to the pop vocalist and offered up a new batch of songs for her to record.

The result is the fine new EP “Kismet,” which — as amazing as it sounds — stands as Carlisle’s first solo collection of English language pop songs in nearly a quarter century. (Her previous album, 2017’s “Wilder Shores,” was a series of Sikh chants performed in Gurmukhi, while the one before that, 2007’s “Voila,” was a collection of chansons done in French.)

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Carlisle kicked off the 80-minute, 18-song show – which was part of Blue Note Napa’s Summer Sessions at Meritage – with a strong version of “(We Want) The Same Thing,” one of five selections on the night from 1989’s excellent, though somewhat underrated “Runaway Horses.”

From there, the singer — who also performs Sunday at August Hall in San Francisco — pumped up the crowd by offering up the first Go-Go’s tune of the night, the classic “Head Over Heels” from the band’s third full-length, 1984’s “Talk Show.”

“It’s really easy,” Carlisle said of the always-difficult-to-time “clap” part in “Head Over Heels,” only to then watch numerous crowd members still mess up. “Well, it’s really easy for some of us.”

In all, Carlisle played four numbers from her former band — and they were the surely the four that the crowd was most hoping to hear.

The 65-year-old Los Angeles native, who has reportedly lived outside of the U.S. for roughly half her life and now calls Mexico City home, sounded good as she continued through “World Without You,” “Circle in the Sand,” “I Get Weak” and other longtime favorites.

Yet, she also scored high marks with the “Kismet” material, offering up a memorable version of “Big Big Love” early in the set and then following up a half-dozen tunes later with the stylish “If U Go.”

Backed by a solid four-piece band, Carlisle was really hitting her stride as she finished up the “Runaway Horses” track “Leave a Light On” and then charged right into her best solo hit – the dizzyingly romantic “Mad About You.”

The momentum carried over to, and even amped up with, the iconic Go-Go’s number “We Got the Beat,” as the crowd heeded Carlisle’s call for “everybody get on your feet.”

She then brought the hour-long main set to a close with a great version of the smash sing-along “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” before returning for a four-song encore highlighted by the back-to-back Go-Go’s classics “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

Fans who missed the show — or who, quite understandably, simply want a second helping — can see Carlisle perform at August Hall in San Francisco on Sunday (Aug. 20). Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $49.50, augusthallsf.com.

Essence, the wonderful Bay Area-based singer-songwriter, opened the show in Napa with a strong set of finely written and performed Americana/alt-country numbers.

She showcased her incredibly strong and versatile vocals time and time again during a generous one-hour showcase.

The Blue Note Summer Sessions continues through October with such shows as Madeleine Peyroux (Sunday, Aug. 20),  Gregory Porter (Sept. 15), NAPA/NOLA: A Day of New Orleans Music and Food (Sept. 23), Psychedelic Furs and Squeeze (Oct. 6) and Yes (Oct. 31). For more information, visit bluenotejazz.com.

Belinda Carlisle setlist:

1. “(We Want) The Same Thing”

2. “Head Over Heels”

3. “Big Big Love”

4. “World Without You”

5. “I Get Weak”

6. “Circle in the Sand”

7. “Vision of You”

8. “Summer Rain”

9. “If U Go”

10. “Fool for Love”

11. “Leave a Light On”

12. “Mad About You”

13. “We Got the Beat”

14. “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”

Encore:

15. “Runaway Horses”

16. “Vacation”

17. “Our Lips Are Sealed”

18. “Live Your Life Be Free”