Has it really been over 34 years?
The B-52s hit the stage in February of this year to commemorate the 34th anniversary of their first live show. As a homecoming of sorts, you know the show had to be in Athens, Georgia, and it had to be captured for posterity.
“Fun” is the word most frequently bandied around with the band, and the resulting live album (their first), With the Wild Crowd: Live in Athens, GA, encapsulates the good-natured revelry of the songs and performance.
While this show is slated for DVD release next year, this hardly seems necessary, given how visceral the music comes across on the compact disc alone.
A technological marvel on the scale of John Waters’ Smellovision in Polyester, the Sensurround in Earthquake, spray cheese, or pop rocks, the band members have here found a way to push their renowned brand of high-octane camp through the speakers to replicate the infectious romp that only they can produce.
The opener, “Pump,” sets the stage for the aerobic workout ahead, with no power ballad in sight. The live album format brings the music to forefront, with the trademark vocal interplay of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson standing out.
What comes through as the set progresses is that for a band never known for their musicianship, these are some tight arrangements with intricate guitar and keyboard stylings. “Private Idaho,” “52 Girls,” and “Party Out of Bounds” especially highlight how complex making simple music can be.
Predictably, the songs that resonate most profoundly here are the singles, and they are rejuvenated live. “Roam,” “Love Shack,” the timeless “Planet Claire,” and of course the closer “Rock Lobster” all seem refreshed and are refreshing in their execution. The old briefly becomes new again.
Like the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet, the B-52s embody a celebratory essence and vibe, and if you try, you can find fault in it, but it’s at the risk of being labelled a cantankerous and grumpy killjoy.
Therefore, the only weak complaint I can muster is that this album should have been out in time for the summer, so as to augment the warmth and rays!
Give Me Back My Man
Party Out Of Bounds
Love In The Year 3000
–Chris “Gutter” RosePowered by Sidelines