The B-52s Should Be So Much More Than a Pop-Cult Act
The B-52's Perform at Pacific Amphitheatre. Photo by Scott Feinblatt
The B-52s Pacific Amphitheater 8/14/15
When The B-52s first got started, in the late '70s, their stylistic trademarks included bouffant hairdos, the influence of '50s rock music, and nods to campy '60s movies. Though they retooled these elements into a wholly original concept which helped establish the New Wave movement, their act has become an anachronism of its own -- and a popular one, at that!
Middle-aged folks filed in from both the parking lot gate and the one accessible through the OC Fair fairgrounds to fill the Pacific Amphitheatre, while opening act The English Beat got the party started. To look at the scene, one would swear he was at a Zumba class from the way virtually every member of the audience frantically aerobicized to the 2 tone revivalist band's beats. By the time the band vacated the stage, the people who weren't suffering heat stroke from this dreadful heat wave were thoroughly energized and ready for The B-52s, who hit the stage after a 20 minute intermission.
The band started off with "Pump" from their most recent album, Funplex (2008) with original band members Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, and Kate Pierson assuming a single line formation at the front of the stage. Their touring band fleshed out the area behind them. Though B-52's guitarist and music director Keith Strickland is still a core member of the band, he no longer tours with them.
The B-52s Perform at Pacific Amphitheatre. Photo by Scott Feinblatt
Following "Pump," the rest of the setlist focused principally on material from their early albums, with only a couple songs reaching as late in their career as 1989's triumphant Cosmic Thing, from which they played hits "Roam" and "Love Shack" [of course]. The stage show was fairly minimalist and featured low-key, spiraling designs projected onto the stage's back wall and, perhaps, house strobe lights; speaking of which: no, they didn't play "Strobe Light" from Wild Planet, but they did play "Party Out of Bounds" and "Private Idaho" from that album. Fortunately, the voices of Wilson, Schneider, and Pierson were in great form, and they hit both the musical and spirited marks of their early recordings -- especially on the songs from their eponymous first album, from which they played "52 Girls," "Dance This Mess Around," "Lava," and "6060-842," as well as "Planet Claire," and "Rock Lobster" as their two encores.
While there were a few moms giving their prepubescent daughters tutorials in how to get down to the funkiness of The B-52s, the amphitheatre suffered a major deficiency of contemporary youth culture. Many of the bands currently enjoying major success have been significantly influenced by the The B-52s; however, it seems that the band, itself, has been relegated to the status of a pop-cult act. That being said, as long as the people who have grown up with the wayward sounds of The B-52's are still around, the band will continue to enjoy their adulation.
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