Two decades after that beloved SoCal alt rock band Oingo Boingo broke up, Johnny Vatos’ Oingo Boingo Dance Party is gaining a significant fan base.
Vatos’ Boingo Dance Party, which features six members of that original group and are led by the original Boingo’s Mohawk-topped drummer, played a packed to the rafters Orange County House of Blues Saturday night.
There are several reasons for the growing popularity of this terrific 12-piece outfit.
First, there’s the music.
Former frontman Danny Elfman’s energetic, often quirky songs popularized by the band throughout the ‘80s have stood the test of time exceedingly well.
Second, this band of new and former members performs these songs with irresistible fun and vitality and their reputation for killer shows is growing.
Third, it helps that Elfman has given his personal endorsement to the band.
Finally, Brendan McCreary, who joined the group a few years ago, has grown as frontman to the point where he’s truly fabulous. He’s become one of the best in the business.
His blend of rock singer and stream of consciousness performance artist bounding and dancing about the stage like no one else while utilizing an diverse array of vocal dynamics, from a whisper to long-held screams brings Elfman’s lyrics to life in a way that’s all his own.
He is not a caricature of Elfman, not at all – they are two very different performers. It’s hard to take your eyes off McCreary, despite all the other stuff going on by this most visual of bands.
The show’s opening was a lot of fun.
Boingo Dance Party keyboardist Doug Lacy, a former ‘90s Boingo member, hidden in a big, baggy green Mr. Oogie Boogie suit dancing around taunting a tie-up Santa who was also being taunted by red Satan who was dressed all in red.
Lacy sang and bellowed in killer fashion as a contemporary Cab Calloway the ‘30s-style “Oogie Boogie’s Song” from Elfman’s soundtrack to Tim Burton’s 1993 animated film, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
A perfect example of how the band is gaining new followers was the presence a few feet away of a young girl, maybe 10 or 12 years old, who was singing along to every song, even the deep cuts.
Amazingly, she knew every line, every word, her head bobbing up and down back and forth to the music, living the lyrics.
Watching her was a real kick.
The group delivered two of Boingo’s biggest LPs almost in their entirety: the 1981 debut, “Only a Lad” and 1985’s “Dead Man’s Party.” The first LP included their odd kinetic cover of The Kink’s 1964 classic, “You Really Got Me.”
For the Saturday show, they switched that song out for another cover, an appropriate one at the considering the venue, a song they performed occasionally in the late 70s and early ‘80s, but was never on an album – The Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” Of course, Saturday’s version was quirky, but it was also beautiful and downright inspired.
The fans at the House of Blues were among the most boisterous, loudly cheering even the deepest of songs showcased from the two albums.
However, when the band began playing the first notes of hit songs from the albums, such as “Just Another Day,” “Weird Science” (the title song to the smash 1985 motion picture and subsequent TV series), “Stay,” “On the Outside,” and the two title songs, the throng erupted, raising the roof.
The only time “Goodbye, “Goodbye” applies to The Johnny Vatos Oingo Boingo Dance Party is when they perform that Boingo song that appeared at the end of Cameron Crowe’s now classic 1982 teen comedy, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
This band isn’t going away. Twenty years after the original Oingo Boingo broke up, this version of Boingo with its army of former members is getting more and more popular, justifiably.