Saturday, July 20, 2013

The B-52's, X concert review: Costa Mesa, Calif.

My review originally appeared at All photos by Kevin Sullivan, courtesy of the Orange County Register.

Two veteran rock acts did their catalogs justice Thursday night at a packed Pacific Amphitheatre.

Some musicians tend to go through the motions after the third-decade career mark has passed, but the B-52's (pictured left), closing in on their fourth, definitely can't be accused of lethargy onstage.

Much to diehards' delight, the Georgia group's 15-song set featured a few deep album cuts and singles that differed from last summer's Greek Theatre appearance.

In Costa Mesa as part of the OC Fair Summer Concert Series, the engaging 70-minute performance began with the sci-fi-inspired "Planet Claire." Kate Pierson's dramatic wail matched the extended intro's eerie synth line (no easy feat at age 65) as co-vocalists Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider played bongos and stylophone, respectively.

Both ladies looked genuinely giddy while trading sky-scraping trills, high-flying harmonies and dance moves, notably during "Mesopotamia," "Private Idaho" and "Roam," while Schneider continued to serve as deadpan comic foil.

An urgent "Lava" was followed by the weirdly whimsical "Dance This Mess Around," led by Paul Gordon's steady Farfisa organ work and Wilson's exasperated vocalizations. (Her elastic pipes would get another workout on the mildly interesting solo spotlight "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland.")

Schneider's asides were refreshingly candid. Early on, he admonished people filming the show to "keep your cameras down, so our fans can watch."

Later, amid some banter with Pierson about traveling to the future before "Love in the Year 3000," Schneider quipped: "It's Bush- and Cheney-free."

After some mild groans from conservatives in the crowd, he added, "We're liberals, just live with it." The lyric about "robots, bootybots, erotibots" was delivered monotone-style, and the party train across the stage was pure fun.

New guitarist Greg Suran was an able replacement for original member Keith Strickland, who retired from touring late last year to pursue an interest in photography. Suran acquitted himself well on the open-tuned surf-rock sounds initially crafted by the late Ricky Wilson. The longtime rhythm section of drummer Sterling Campbell (Duran Duran) and bassist Tracy Wormworth were right on the money.

A frenzied "6060-842," from the band's eponymous 1979 LP, was a welcome addition. With venue curfew time fast approaching, "Love Shack" and encore closer "Rock Lobster" (freshened up with a new swirling organ sound) went down a storm.

X, another band formed in the mid-'70s, turned in a hard-hitting opening set that met with equal approval from the fair crowd. The L.A. punk vets blitzed through 14 songs in 40 minutes; a sharp "Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not" started things off.

The foursome last played O.C. during a January benefit for the Blasters' Phil Alvin at the Observatory, and here again they put on a proficient set. Billy Zoom sported his trademark wide grin and effortlessly played all his classic riffs on a glittery silver guitar in typical spread-legged stance. He even mouthed along to some lyrics (a rarity).

Singer Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe's harrowing vocal blend was particularly effective during "White Girl," "The World's a Mess; It's in My Kiss" and a fierce "Los Angeles."

Before X's breakneck take on the Jerry Lee Lewis-popularized favorite "Breathless," Doe spotted a gal with pink hair (likely a wig, in deference to the B-52's) near the stage. He casually surveyed the audience to see if anyone else had pink or blue hair, "but not the old (lady) kind."

Elsewhere, Cervenka's caterwaul on the bleak "Johny Hit and Run Pauline" and politically-themed "The New World" were just as vital today.

"I want to dedicate this show, this song and a lifetime to Ray Manzarek," said Cervenka, about the highly influential Doors keyboardist who produced X's seminal early '80s albums and died this past May.

Oddly, "The Hungry Wolf," instead of the band's famous take on the Doors' "Soul Kitchen," followed; the cover would later appear in its usual set-closing position. "Wolf" was expectedly ominous, with drummer D.J. Bonebrake's tribal rhythms providing a brief focus on his talents.

1 comment:

ida said...

I was at the show, it was a great double-bill. I'm glad Exene mentioned Ray. Good review!