“I hope I die before I get old.”
“I hope that I get old before I die.”
-They Might Be Giants
Theoretically, rock ‘n’ roll stays ageless — the music of youth and rebellion. In reality, the President of the United States repeatedly used a Fleetwood Mac song as his personal version of Hail To The Chief … 11 years ago.
The rantings of Jack Black to the contrary, rock is the mainstream and has been for decades now. Mick and Paul sit around in their respective mansions and bask in their respective, respectable knighthoods. Ozzy Osborne has been reduced in the public mind from Prince of Hell to a doddering, brain-damaged, bathrobe-clad source of prime-time hijinks. John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon is currently battling ostriches in a British reality show. Indeed, there’s a popular VH1 show that reunites old 80s bands just so people can marvel at how old they are.
But just because the rock legacy stretches across a couple of generations, that doesn’t mean that older musicians can’t genuinely rock the house! For example, I gather that The Rolling Stones are still quite accomplished at the delicate art of “tearing up the joint”. Judging from how many jokes the Stones have to endure about their age, one might think they stretch the age boundaries for legitimate rockers. But Chuck Berry is still performing, folks! Let me say that again. Chuck. Berry. And yes, he still does the duckwalk. He’s probably under the influence of Percogesic, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, but dammit, he’s still doing that duckwalk!
The B-52′s are a considerably younger band than the Rolling Stones, but they aren’t spring chickens by any measure. They performed Friday at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. (Yes, they’re doing casino shows. I guess that means they’re officially a nostalgia act now. Great.)
The roughest-looking band member was Cindy Wilson, but that’s fair since she’s been through emotional hell since the AIDS-related death of her brother Ricky in 1985. I was very glad to see her back on stage, howling about how she is not, in fact, no limburger.
The other band members were reasonably well-preserved … especially Fred Schneider. (He doesn’t actually seem to be a human being … I think he’s an imp or a wood sprite or something.) Guitarist Keith Strickland also looked in fine fettle, but he did insist on wearing shades through the entire show. Sure, they enhanced his “cool,” but you had to wonder if they were hiding some telltale sign of age or too many wild parties. (Wait a minute. That’s why shades are cool in the first place. Never mind.) And Kate Pierson is still a juicy hot redhead. Nuff said.
Here’s the point. The B-52′s have always had a reputation for a kickass live show, and they still rock as hard as they ever have. MAN, what a show.
You need a little context to understand the power of this performance. True, the band isn’t all that young, but neither was the audience. Apparently B-52′s fans are all middle-aged. Yeah, there were a few (VERY few) youngsters in the house. (They probably came to see those rock legends that their parents always talk about.) But on the whole, we’re looking at a median age of 38 or 39. Scary.
But they all got up to dance. ALL of them. Every pot belly in the house danced that mess around. And the Beau Rivage Auditorium is NOT built for dancing. Great seats (yay for cupholders!), no leftover floor space. This did not stop the dancing, it merely delayed the inevitable. Come on! Who can sit down during Love Shack? Let’s be serious here!
Song selection ranged over the band’s whole career, which makes sense since they were promoting a greatest hits CD. I did notice that they shied away from their painful “middle period” when Ricky died. I don’t think a single song was played from the “Bouncing Off The Satellites” album. Big deal. I was just happy to hear Strobe Light and Quiche Lorraine.
The light and sound production were particularly good. I’m used to rock shows blasting my eardrums so hard I can’t make out the highs. But every piece of percussion came through clear as a bell, from Cindy’s bongos on Planet Claire to Fred’s mini-cowbells on Junebug.
(And before anyone points this out in the comments, I’m aware that I’m being a lame old guy saying how nice it was that the rock music wasn’t too loud. I embrace my aged, decrepit nature. So there.)
Casino shows have advantages and disadvantages. The downside is that the concert was short, just shy of 2 hours. I definitely left wanting more. I would have loved to hear live versions of Good Stuff or Dry County … or just about anything else, really. I would have loved to hear more, period.
The upside is that we got to enjoy the Rivage’s awesome seafood buffet beforehand. Sadly, while there were lots of tasty crab legs and boiled shrimp, there wasn’t any actual rock lobster.
DOWN, down …