Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40!
On Sept. 8 at Huber Heights, Ohio's Rose Music Center, it was three bands from the ’80s — The B52's, Berlin and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark — all of whom released their first music in 1979.
Of course, for many, The B-52's are only 30 years old, as their most-widely known album, Cosmic Thing, came out in 1989. Indeed, the crowd, while enthusiastic to hear and see America’s favorite party band, seemed unfamiliar with the bulk of the setlist.
Before the band took the stage, a video montage played, featuring old photos and videos of the band over a medley of some great tunes. Sadly, almost none of those were played. The crowd was teased with the very great “Legal Tender” and “Song for a Future Generation,” but only heard snippets.
Also, nothing from what is arguably their best album, 1985’s Bouncing off the Satellites, was performed. It’s a bittersweet album to be sure, in that while it’s very upbeat sounding, the memories associated with it are perhaps still sad since shortly after its release co-founding member Ricky Wilson passed away.
However, that’s splitting hairs. No matter what The B-52's play, it’s a party, regardless of whether the audience is familiar with all the tunes or not — and even if older-school fans don't get to hear all of their favorites. Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson’s soaring vocals punctuated with Fred Schneider’s droll antics are always crowd-pleasing.
They opened with “Private Idaho,” which did get the crowd moving immediately. “Mesopotamia” and “Give Me Back My Man” followed, with Wilson sounding fantastic on the latter. Pierson too was in top vocal form, while Fred Schneider sounded, like, well, Fred Schneider. Though he didn’t flop and jerk around like he did back in the day, Schneider was entertaining as he glided around the stage offering more sedate moves.
Also celebrating a 40th anniversary (well, 41st) was bass player Tina Wormworth, formerly of Northern Ohio's The Waitresses (“I Know What Boys Like,” “Square Pegs”), who started in 1978. When the Bs hit the road, they bring the heavy hitters — the whole full band also sounded amazing.
Kicking it into high gear toward the finish, the appropriate “Dance This Mess Around” was offered before the band served up, no surprise, “Love Shack,” mixed with War’s “Low Rider.” For the encore, they sent the crowd home with “Planet Claire” and of course, “Rock Lobster,” one of America’s all-time great party tunes.
Berlin started the evening, playing their very great early-MTV hits “Metro,” “No More Words” and “Masquerade,” as well as the big Top 40 hit “Take My Breath Away,” for which lead singer Terri Nunn came into the crowd to sing. Like, deep into the crowd — 20 rows in.
OMD was in the middle slot, and while most people were waiting for their biggest hit, “If You Leave,” the Synth Pop pioneers from Liverpool won the crowd over. It seemed as though much of the audience forgot how many OMD songs they knew. Even songs from late in the catalog, like 2010’s “History of Modern (Part 1),” got the crowd bouncing up and down. Absent was the new single “Don’t Go,” just released two weeks ago ahead of a new singles box set due in October. At the end of their set, when their last song, “Electricity,” was announced, many in the crowd booed. Lead singer Andy McCluskey politely explained that a lot of folks in the crowd were wearing B-52's T-shirts and they had to clear out for the headliners.
Forty years on, all three acts sounded and looked great. Three examples of how not embracing rock & roll tropes can really extend your career. Yes, The B-52's are our national party band, but they also show that doing it responsibly can extend your partying days.