I avoided Duran Duran Wednesday night, saving my ‘80s nostalgia trip for Thursday. But what I heard and saw wasn't just a band recycling its old hits -- although that's what it did.

I heard a great power-pop band that sounded better than I remembered.

The band is The Bangles. They were terrific Thursday, playing a jam-packed show in the Cedar Street Courtyard. And I say that even though they started 45 minutes late. I generally won't wait that long for any SXSW show. But I'm happy I made an exception to that rule.

Lead vocalist Susannah Hoffs, guitarist Vicki Peterson and drummer Debbi Peterson are now joined by a couple guys on bass and keyboards. But they sound like they've been playing together continually for the last three decades. Their 45 minute set was comprised off all the songs you would want to hear. They rocked and the family harmonies of the Peterson sisters make their vocals lucious.

The Bangles were just playing for the fun of it. They've got a new record coming out later this year. They didn't play any songs from it. But I can't wait to hear it.

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The Strokes, on the other hand, played some new songs in their show at the Auditorium Shores. That's the SXSW free show location, where bigger name bands play for anyone who wants to show up -- a freebie for the Austin community.

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There were thousands there Thursday -- I'm guessing at least 7,000 and maybe lots more. That made viewing the show tough from a distance - I watched the first portion on the big screen, then snuck down close to the stage where I could see the band, even with its trademark back-of-the-stage colored lights.

It wasn't the best Strokes show I've seen. The area was just too big for that. But the band, which has been off since 2006, has new album, called "Angles" coming out Tuesday and the SXSW show was a perfect kickoff for the disc. I've only heard the new record a couple times. But I think it's good...and not a great departure from previous Strokes works.

The coolest thing about the show: Fireworks accompanied the closing song "Last Night." It was pretty spectacular hearing the music, watching the colorful explosions reflect off the downtown skyscrapers.



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