NEW YORK -- On a night when Chrissie Hynde's energy belied
her age and the pop-punk of the Pretenders seemed to pour from
her very soul, it was hard to fathom how the recently reunited B-
52's would top their opener.
Their headlining-band status was evidenced by an elaborate stage
setup of decorative planets dangling above their heads and stars
twinkling from the rafters, but following a powerful set of early and
newly refashioned Pretenders hits, they had a lot of work to do
Wednesday night at New York City's famed Radio City Music Hall.
Still, the loud and always festive presence of frontman Fred
Schneider, decked out in yellow and orange, coupled with the wailing
of high-haired Kate Pierson, quickly established that this over-the-
top band was up to the task.
With the opening humming of "Planet Claire," the audience was on its
feet and dancing -- and that's how fans remained for the entire
The return to the band of the singing and conga-playing Cindy
Wilson, in flowing black garb and wavy blond hair, and the
augmenting of the principal players with a lively group of backing
musicians -- including a female bassist in a sari -- only added to the
vision and the voices onstage.
"They're intergalactic," said 29-year-old Graciela Brastavsky of
Manhattan. "The B-52's are about love and energy."
Two silhouetted dancers bracketed the stage as the band rocked
hits such as "Private Idaho," "Roam" and "Good Stuff," during which
Wilson and Pierson engaged in spirited, dueling vocal theatrics that
recalled their early days while staying true to their more marketable
In true frontman fashion, Schneider dropped corny but engaging
one-liner intros between songs. "This is a real ass-shaker coming up!"
he shouted. Like the rest of the group, he seemed genuinely thrilled
to be flailing around the stage like a madman. During "Strobelight,"
mesmerizing lighting effects made the audience appear to be floating.
After debuting two new rockers,
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Hallucinating_Pluto.ram" >"Hallucinating Pluto"
>"Hallucinating Pluto"(RealAudio excerpt) and the ode
inspired by Blondie goddess Debbie Harry,
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Debbie.ram">"Debbie"(RealAudio excerpt), the B-52's closed the night with an
exhilarating pairing of their signature songs
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Love_Shack.ram">"Love Shack" HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Rock_Lobster.ram">"Rock Lobster"
Shack"(RealAudio excerpt) and
Lobster"(RealAudio excerpt). During the latter, Schneider
yelled out, "It wasn't a rock, it was a new Spice Girl."
"They're the world's greatest party band," said Andy Cohen, 30, who
never stopped dancing.
Still, for all their antics and high harmonies, the B-52's themselves
would have to give applause to rocker Hynde and her band.
Through a riveting set that included tunes from her upcoming album
and such signature Pretenders hits as "Message of Love,"
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Pretenders,_The/Talk_Of_The_ Town.ram">"Talk of the Town"
Town.ram">"Talk of the Town"(RealAudio excerpt) and "Kid,"
the new-wave punk priestess played every bit as hard as she did
when she first burst onto the new-wave scene nearly two decades
ago. She looked no older. Her voice was as fresh as when she first put
the tunes down on vinyl.
It was a performance that did nothing to tarnish her rock icon
Dressed simply in a white jacket and black pants and standing on a
bare stage, Hynde immediately connected with the audience with a
bit of sly humor. "Is this the hallowed stage that [Fleetwood Mac
singer] Stevie Nicks herself stood on last week?" she asked in mock
As a ray of white light danced off her guitar and shot upward into
far reaches of the vast hall, Hynde wrapped her thick, sexy voice
around her often frank lyrics on such aggressive rockers as
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Pretenders,_The/Night_In_My _Veins.ram">"Night in My Veins"
_Veins.ram">"Night in My Veins"(RealAudio excerpt),
occasionally throwing in a familiar leg kick for emphasis.
She may be getting older, but she's none the worse for it.