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The B-52s – still wonderfully weird

The B-52s (Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson) received a proclamation from the city honoring their 35th anniversary. Photo credit: Max Blau

The B-52s (Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson) received a proclamation from the city honoring their 35th anniversary. Photo credit: Max Blau

For 35 years, The B-52s have lived and breathed quirky.

And that’s just the way fans want them.

Other bands might have abandoned their proclivities toward weirdness as they aged, but not the core four of Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland, who are now in their 50s and 60s.

From the opening “Wig,” which featured Schneider prancing around the stage, pointing at the crowd and yelping the lyric, “What’s that on your head?” (answer: lots of colorful bouffants for some) to Pierson’s out-of-water swimming moves during “Private Idaho,” it was clear that this band will always be most comfortable on Non-Conformity Street.

Four light towers, some blinking set pieces and a video screen with random images projected behind the B’s kept the stage party-ready. Schneider, in a tangerine suit and Pierson, in a form-fitting fuchsia dress and a mound of mahogany hair, brought splotches of color to the stage that were offset by Wilson’s black dress and Strickland’s dark suit.

Though the first couple of songs were brushed with irritating feedback and the double-punch of the relatively tuneless “Lava” from the band’s 1979 debut, and a strained “Give Me Back My Man” from 1980’s “Wild Planet,” were moments to endure rather than enjoy, the B’s soared during most of their 75-minute show. Strickland, in particular, seemed to enjoy rattling off a series of surf-rock licks that, combined with the band’s New Wave nuttiness, signifies their sound.

Pierson and Wilson were in perfect harmony all night, coating “Roam” – perhaps their most conventional song – and “52 Girls” with honeyed vocals presented with happy wiggles.

Most of the 3,200-plus crowd in the Fox Theatre looked like folks who had discovered the band during their Athens years, some of them now bringing grown kids of their own to experience one of pop music’s most unlikely hit-makers.

While the quartet – backed by Tracy Wormworth on bass, Paul Gordon on keys and guitar and Sterling Campbell on drums – played plenty from their early catalog, they also didn’t ignore their 2008 return to form, “Funplex.” Along with the gleefully nonsensical title track, the B’s also offered “Love in the Year 3000,” “Too Much to Think About” and “Hot Corner,” which Pierson introduced as, “A song about us in Athens.”

Schneider and Pierson lit up the stage with their colorful duds. Photo credit: Max Blau

Schneider and Pierson lit up the stage with their colorful duds. Photo credit: Max Blau

But of course it was the once-ubiquitous “Love Shack,” given a funky swing live, that had fists raised, ready to “bang, bang, bang on the door,” and the squiggly “Planet Claire” that had fans grooving hardest.

Given the band’s forever ties to Georgia – even though Wilson is the only one who still lives here – it wasn’t so much a surprise, but a, “Huh. Cool,” moment when Atlanta City Council member Michael Julian Bond came onstage to present the band members with a proclamation to honor their 35th anniversary.

“It’s been a long time since you guys were at that house across the street from the Taco Stand,” he said, referencing their formation in Athens. Bond then proclaimed July 21 as “B-52s Day” – a fitting tribute to a most memorable band.

Opening the show was the amusingly named Already Taken, a quintet of teens that happens to include Wilson’s two kids – India Bennett on bass and Nolan Bennett on drums.

But there is more than nepotism at work here. The group, fronted by singer Jack Haidet, whose clear, refreshingly Auto-Tune-free voice carries some decent heft, offered mature musical chops underneath their catchy pop-rock.

India, whose clipped, nasally voice drips with attitude, took the lead for a song and imbued lyrics such as “I’m tired of you, leave me a alone” with perfect dismissiveness.

Already Taken, which also includes Matt Haidet on keyboards and Mary Frances Kitchens on guitar, primarily play local concert series’ and private events, but displayed impressive poise in front of thousands of people in one of the nation’s grandest theaters.

(Check out more photos from last night’s show. Also, here’s a look back at The B-52s 2010 appearance at The Fred - The B-52s rock Peachtree City .)

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

14 comments Add your comment

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Luther

July 22nd, 2012
10:32 am

Entertaining as always! But never got the sound right. Vocals were distorted most of the show.

Leslie

July 22nd, 2012
10:42 am

Just saw on the news that Fred is standing up for the elephants in Atlanta by supporting the Ban on Bullhooks. It is great to see that he has a soul to go with that rock and roll.
I am looking forward to seeing him at the Atlanta City Hall Monday at noon.

Walt

July 22nd, 2012
10:44 am

Enjoyed the show, but vocals were too loud…my ears are still ringing!

Walt

July 22nd, 2012
10:49 am

Really wanted to hear Topaz!…but to no avail. ( much better song than some of the others they sang)

SBinF

July 22nd, 2012
10:49 am

Hate that I missed this show, have always loved the band.

The Fox in my experience is a terrible place to hear amplified music. I’ve seen shows ranging from Broadway to jam bands there, and every time I find it incredibly loud and unappealing.

lawzoo

July 22nd, 2012
11:57 am

Nice of Council Member Bond….Julian Bond to take the stage. I didn’t know he was a B-52’s fan?

Kate Pierson Rocks ! Quirky but Rocks !!!!

Sonia Swartz

July 22nd, 2012
12:13 pm

Great performance!! Fred is not only talented but also compassionate. He is supporting the bullhook ban in Atlanta. Look forward to seeing him to morrow in front of City Hall for the press conference.

Nicole

July 22nd, 2012
2:39 pm

I think they rocked it last night. And I saw on the news that Fred Schneider is going to be in front of the City Hall Building at noon tomorrow doing a press conference about helping elephants! Very cool! I love elephants even more than I love a great beehive, and what I love most of all is a man who is compassionate towards animals. I’ll be at the City Hall tomorrow and I can’t wait. The B-52’s rock! I got me a car, it’s as big as a whale, an I’ll be heading on down to the love shack to see my man Fred.

Ellsworth Ware, III

July 22nd, 2012
3:58 pm

Yonder here in St. Louis, Missouri (yeah, I’m aware about the Braves thing from last summer, but that’s how the ball bounces), the B-52s played a free concert in front of the Gateway Arch in the summer 2005, with the Mississippi flowing along behind them. It was a tranquil and warm evening, perfect for the thousands and thousands (including yours truly) sitting on the massive column of concrete steps leading up to the monument.

Simply put, a wonderful show, with an outstanding sound system and Schneider roaming the stage doing frug exercises with his arms between singing while Strickland stayed the immobile tall cool brotha in a black suit and shades, expertly picking at his guitar. Wilson and Pierson shimmied like mad, and looked great in tight red summer dresses.

Thank you, the state of Georgia, for a lovely vintage peach of a rock n’ roll music band.

SuzieQ

July 22nd, 2012
6:29 pm

Thank you for being so ” kind” to Already Taken in your review! They have always been sensitive to the “connection” and have never wanted to use or abuse it in any way. The kids have worked really really hard and its so nice to be appreciated in your column!

Praveen

July 22nd, 2012
9:41 pm

Saw B-52s at one of the music midtowns. One of my favorite bands of all time. Love their brand of rock. j

knockerjoe

July 23rd, 2012
9:51 pm

Great high energy show. Crowd was enthusiastic and ready to party.
I was lucky enough to catch a few of there first shows
in NYC. That being said the sound man should be fired.
Loud and distorted vocals and the guitar was way down in the mix.
I have seen many shows at the Fox so you can’t blame the venue.
Thank you B-52’s i hope you never stop playing!!!!

Marsellus Wallace

July 24th, 2012
2:53 pm

Kate is more than 20 years my senior, but I still find her to be incredibly sexy.