BY TODD REZSNYAK
If you've never seen The B-52's perform live, you're missing out on a unique concert experience. The band is all about having a good time, with songs and lyrics that may seem completely off the wall, yet have the ability to burrow right into your pleasure centers. The legendary party band opened its Saturday show at CMAC with "Wig," a perfect example of what I'm talking about. It's a song that's literally about people wearing various types of hairpieces, with a couple of intentionally corny wig-related puns tossed in. It would sound strange to a person unfamiliar with the group, but for the audience that night, it made perfect sense.
The B-52's hit the stage promptly at 8 p.m. and over the next 75 minutes blew through 14 tracks, a well-balanced set list that touched on every important era for the group (and all but one of its studio albums), with a couple of surprises mixed in.
The B's of course played their most recognizable songs, "Love Shack" and "Roam," while treating long-time fans to early gems "Lava" and "52 Girls." Kate Pierson was in fine form, her voice strong and on pitch throughout the show. Fred Schneider was also in great shape, his signature sing/shout vocals clear and energetic. Only Cindy Wilson seemed to falter a bit in the middle of the set, struggling to land some notes, but she recovered and finished strong. Keith Strickland, on guitar, took every opportunity to showcase his skills, shining on guitar-heavy songs like "Funplex" and "Private Idaho."
The stage was light on visuals, but that didn't matter, as the experience was more about the music, and the audience clearly connected with it. From the moment the band took the stage, large portions of the crowd were on their feet, dancing in the aisles and in front of their seats through most of the set, especially to "Mesopotamia," "Rock Lobster," (the final song), and of course "Love Shack." The audience particularly relished shouting the most iconic line, "Tin roof! Rusted!" back to the band, before breaking back into dance.
Overall the show was a simple affair; the band's outfits were rather muted, with Schneider's multiple pairs of sunglasses qualifying as a costume change of sorts, and Pierson and Wilson without their signature beehive 'dos, which made the songs the focus of the show. And there's a good reason for that: the band still sounds great. Despite Wilson's vocal hiccups for a song or two, she and Piersone have always blended well together, and they both play off and with Schneider's vocals as well as they ever have.
The songs also hold up. The three tracks played off the "Funplex" album from 2008 fit right in with tunes like "Planet Claire," a tune that's now 30 years old. Anyone who knows the B-52's also knows they've always been in a crowd of one. No other band out there is quite like the B's, so here's to hoping they keep the partying going for a good while longer.