B-52's Still Fly High While Pretenders Remain True

Veteran pop-rockers made new waves at Radio City Music Hall show.

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

hour-long set.

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

through

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

later era.

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" (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" (RealAudio excerpt) and

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/B52s/Rock_Lobster.ram">"Rock

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" (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

reputation.

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

reverence.

As a ray of white light danced off her guitar and shot upward into

the

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" (RealAudio excerpt),

occasionally throwing in a familiar leg kick for emphasis.

She may be getting older, but she's none the worse for it.