Photos by Hillery Terenzi, Review by JJ Posway
Kitsch is tricky business. Being ironically kitschy only works when everyone knows that’s what you’re doing. It’s a shaky thing to build a career on, but the B-52s made it part of their persona and they had the musical substance to back it up. The band could be up onstage winking for 2 hours, but at this point I can’t tell if the kitschiness is still intentional. What I’m saying is that their live performance was literally kitschy.
Before you dismiss this review, I like The B-52s. Their debut is a (the?) perfect dance-rock album. I dream about attending their early shows; their earlier taped performances look amazing. In 2013 though, their live show isn’t rambunctious or tongue in cheek, it’s a precise run-through of hits. It is what it is – entertaining, but it leaves something to be desired.
There were plenty of highlights though, don’t get me wrong. Fred still sounds fantastic, and he, Cindy and Kate still deliver the playful dialogue in songs like “Dance This Mess Around” and “Party Out Of Bounds” as close to spontaneously as rehearsed dialogue can get.
Halfway through the set, Fred left the stage to let Cindy shine on a rare performance of “Girl From Ipanema Goes to Greenland.” When he accidentally locked himself out of garden, unbeknownst to the rest of the band, the members onstage joked around and skipped to the Fred-less songs in the setlist like a crowd-frenzying rendition of “Roam” and Whammy! single “Legal Tender.” It was a refreshing bit of spontaneity that Fred perpetuated when he finally emerged, speaking about gardens and accidentally introducing the wrong song before the band played “Dance This Mess Around.”
Overall, their set was enjoyable. It wasn’t mind-blowing but I’m glad I caught The B-52s. Opener “Planet Claire” still had me beaming, as the familiar background noise swelled, that surfy guitar riff bubbled up and Fred played the walkie-talkie.
Picture Book: The B-52’s with opener, Jay Stolar