NEW YORK "This is our 25th anniversary that makes us 30," the B-52's' Fred Schneider joked from the Irving Plaza stage Monday night. Thirty they're not, but their minimalist lunatic art-dance music remains joyously unstoppable a quarter of a century after they exploded on the downtown New York club scene in 1979.
The B's are playing a smattering of dates in support of their anthology Nude on the Moon, and performed to a packed house filled with both Cosmic Thing-era fans and folks who were old enough to have seen the original band in its heyday. (Click for photos from the event.)
Old-school aficionados were treated to guest appearances by members of B-52's contemporaries and art rock scene-masters Talking Heads, as well as by Yoko Ono, widow of the late Beatle John Lennon, but more significantly here as an artist whose vocal experimentation in the '70s was an influence on the B's sound.
The band was the "Love Shack" configuration, with original members Fred
Schneider (vocals, percussion, walkie talkies), Kate Pierson (vocals and
keyboards), Cindy Wilson (vocals and percussion) and Keith Strickland
(guitar) supported by Sterling Campbell on drums, Pat Irwin on keyboards and
Sara Lee on bass, formerly of Gang of Four (founding member Ricky Wilson died
in 1985). The group put down a 90-minute, balcony-shaking, 16-song set of
its classics, with enough updated arrangements to keep it fresh for the
audience and apparently fun for the band. Yet the Immortal Truths of the
B-52's live ritual remained. Every soul drawing breath in the room sang the
"Why don't you dance with me?" portion of "Dance This Mess Around." Anyone
who thought that the subject of "Planet Claire" may be from Mars or one of
the stars had that misconception cleared up. And the band still gets the
audience to crouch down onto the ground when commanded during "Rock Lobster."
It was at that precise moment in "Rock Lobster" that 68-year-old Yoko Ono hit
the stage, to warble and screech with the rest of the band for the show's
finale. Coming immediately after "Planet Claire," when Talking Heads (and Tom
Tom Club-ers) Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz joined the band to punctuate the
Peter Gunn bass and drum line, it was an appropriately bizarre ending for the
band that made bizarre fun so many years ago.
B-52's set list:
- "Dance This Mess Around"
- "Good Stuff"
- "Hero Worship"
- "Quiche Lorraine"
- "Private Idaho"
- "Revolution Earth"
- "Deadbeat Club"
- "Hallucinating Pluto"
- "Strobe Light"
- "Love Shack"
- "Whammy Kiss"
- "Planet Claire" (with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth)
- "Rock Lobster" (with Yoko Ono)
Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.