If it ain’t broke, they ain’t gonna fix it. Like a classic car that’s been nurtured and kept operational for 40 years (39 technically), The B-52’s returned to Costa Mesa and performed an hour and a half set of golden oldies for the adoring fans who filled the Pacific Amphitheater on Friday night.
Opening band The Aquabats appealed to the children and the children inside of the many middle aged folks who comprised the majority of the crowd. The OC-grown band’s zany antics, costumes, and performance set a tone similar to that of a lively children’s birthday party in an expanded backyard — especially when the gigantic beach balls were released. Following their 20 minute set, the stage was cleared, and the roadies unfurled the stage backdrop that The B-52’s have been carting around for the past five years or so.
Then The B-52’s stepped up and rolled out 15 songs from their 20th Century catalog. Each year, it seems like they are trying less and less to break new ground or even perform any tunes from their most recent album (2008’s Funplex). Instead, they accommodate the nostalgia of their fans with performances of “Love Shack,” “Roam,” and “Rock Lobster.” While performing these, and other admittedly great songs like “Your Own Private Idaho,” “Lava,” “6060-842” “Planet Claire,” and “Whammy Kiss,” singers Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson did their best to keep their material fresh.
Some of the banter between songs was amusing and indicated that the performers did, indeed, still possess the snark that inspired the composition of their golden oldies; however, the predominant spirit was more suggestive of an MC talking a roomful of cruise ship guests through “The Hokey Pokey” than of a band of endearing hooligans tearing it up. The most satisfying aspects of the show were the fact that the singers still possess their highly distinctive voices (although Kate seemed to be pulling some punches on her belting), the gratuitous setlist, and comments from Fred like: “Whoever comes up with the best new dance gets the Best New Dance Award.”
It would be swell if a majority of fans had shown that they were committed enough to try new things when the band gave adaptation a whirl in 2008. However, it seems like yesteryear’s misfits have officially resigned themselves to being the square crowd that many of these songs were meant to parody. Indeed, during “Deadbeat Club,” when the girls were singing, “Let’s go crash that party down in normal town tonight…” it was evident that there was no more party to crash; this was normal town.