I can think of no other band that is synonymous with the words party and good times than the B-52’s. Their infectious music layered with dance grooves galore, that frankly just makes your body move has been in high gear for the past 35 years. Gee, wouldn’t a 35th Anniversary Tour be a great idea? I’m so glad I thought of it. Selling over 20 million albums the band has had its ups and downs but their enthusiasm for their craft has never wavered. Originally forming in Athens, GA, in 1976, they played their first show on Valentine’s Day in 1977. Their name (which is Southern slang for outrageous ‘bouffant’ hairdos) was a strike of genius and lent it itself to its own wild image. The original members of the band (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Ricky Wilson and Cindy Wilson) found themselves playing the infamous CBGBs on weekend trips to New York. With exposure like that, awareness spread and not long after the B-52’s had developed and underground following. Their self titled debut release sold more than 500,000 copies and featured their first party classic song, “Rock Lobster.”
The top of the charts became a very familiar place for the band. With such hits as “Private Idaho,” “Strobe Light” “Summer Of Love,” “Roam,” and their biggest most well known song to date, “Love Shack,” the band became a driving force in a new genre of music. In the 1980’s it was better known as ‘New Wave.’ Today, we know it as ‘Alternative.’ Their outrageous presence and style also opened them up to a new music television channel, MTV. The little channel that conquered made the B-52’s a household name. After the untimely passing of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS in 1985 and Cindy Wilson’s departure soon after the band continued as a trio; Fred, Keith and Kate.
This is one of those ‘first times’ for me. Yes, I admit it; I am a B-52’s virgin. I have never seen the band live. Good things come to those who wait, correct? You betcha by golly. I really had no expectations walking into Hard Rock Live tonight. But what I did know was I was about to have a really good time. Right from the get go the non-stop party lasted 75 minutes and beamed through 14 songs. The material highlighted every aspect of the bands 35 years and gave the audience a real opportunity to celebrate. Opening their set with the song “Wig,” (a tune literally about people wearing different styled hairpieces) the crowd was immediately transported in the B’s vortex.
Their wild dress and beehive hairdos were absent this evening. Fred Schneider was neatly dressed in black pants and along sleeve pink shirt. Kate Pierson’s bright red hair was quite the eye catcher as she danced and sung in a black top and fringe black pants. Keith Strickland dressed in typical rock fashion; black. Cindy Wilson was the most colorfully adorned of the group. Long blonde hair accented her multi-colored floor length flowing dress as she occasionally stood behind the bongos, center stage. Their backdrop included a psychedelic spiral design with lava lamp strobe lights that played along with the music.
“Mesopotamia,” and “Private Idaho,” set the high energy groove of the evening. Unfortunately it seemed to take awhile for the audiences Glucosamine (for some of us who aren’t in our 20’s anymore we need a little help getting up and moving around) to kick in. There were pockets of people on their feet dancing throughout the beginning of the show but they were scattered. I’m not sure if it was a show of respect for the rockers on stage and their 35 years together to sit quietly through the first few songs but even Fred Schneider must have sensed something was in the air. “You can get up and dance. We are a dance band after all.” “Roam,” was the first indication that the audience was alive and ready to get down as the entire audience rose to its feet; dancing in the aisles and in front of their seats. Now we’ve got a show!
The familiar and fan favorites came in rapid succession. “Eyes Wide Open,” “52 Girls,” “Love In The Year 3000,” and “Whammy Kiss,” kept the Hard Rock on its feet. “Love Shack” (including Fred’s cowbell playing) sent the show to another level. This was the party I was expecting. Fred, Kate, and Cindy were all in fine vocal pitch and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as they too danced across the stage egging the audience on. Kate’s ethereal haunting vocal during “Planet Claire,” was nothing short of amazing. The encore (including “Claire,” and “Rock Lobster,”) was the perfect ending to the show. The fan frenzy reminded me of a New Year’s Eve Celebration when the clock strikes 12. Even after all these years the music holds up and can still elicit excitement and fun when heard. There is no other band on the planet like the B-52’s. May their party continue for many years to come and thanks for making my ‘first time’ so memorable.