|photo: Kelly Swift|
Packing the Pacific Amphitheatre on Friday night, the veteran alternative pop band virtually defined “party” with a fun and lively show. Although the Athens, Ga., group hasn’t put out a studio album since “Funplex” in ‘08, the three core members have kept busy lately recording individually.
Kate Pierson collaborated with Jack White on a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” for Record Store Day 2016 and her full length solo bow “Guitars & Microphones,” co-written/executive produced by Sia, appeared last year. Cindy Wilson is expected to have new material out soon. Fred Schneider focused on the Superions and various guest vocal appearances. This summer, the B-52’s covered the theme song to Adult Swim cartoon “Squidbillies,” shot a guest appearance for the TV series “Portlandia” and saw a 1979 Boston concert released on CD via Real Gone Music.
Arriving onstage in Costa Mesa to a gong sound and spoken-word bit, the seven-piece band started its 85-minute set with the frantic title track to multi-platinum 1989 CD “Cosmic Thing.” Schneider slyly changed the lyrical possessive on “Don’t let it rest on the president’s desk” to “right wing” and “tea party.” Both he and Pierson did some clucking motions.
“We’re the Liberals, I mean The B-52’s. This song is sooo dead,” deadpanned Schneider, before “Mesopotamia.” Longtime bassist Tracy Wormworth drove the slow-churning groove, Wilson (looking regal in gold coat and necklace) played bongos and the other two singers sashayed around the stage. Keyboardist James Romanzo added a snippet of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” at the end.
The harrowing new wave of “Private Idaho” packed quite a wallop as the ladies’ unique harmonies intertwined. Then Schneider exited for a while. Pierson noted the band’s 40th anniversary was coming up. She and Wilson shared the spotlight on a luxurious “Deadbeat Club” and the still-soaring harmonies of “Roam” (boasting a fresh Phil Spector-ish intro). That prompted the few fans not already dancing to get up and sing along.
Before the taut “52 Girls,” Pierson pointed out a British newspaper had reported that was also the number of female heads of state around the world (but no mention of Hillary's prospects). Nick Lashley’s manic surf guitar work led the way.
Schneider reappeared with a large old radio antenna (and later on, a stylophone) for the giddy “Channel Z.” Wilson adequately handled the high trills here and elsewhere. Appropriately enough, “Party Out of Bounds” saw several concertgoers going crazy and ace drummer Sterling Campbell really proved his mettle.
Going back to the eponymous 1979 debut LP for the peppy “6060-842,” Schneider commented about phone booths and mentioned the planet Pluto over the next few introductions.
An extended version of ultimate party song “Love Shack” went down a storm to conclude the main set. The band encored with the spacey “Outer Limits” meets “Peter Gunn” theme-styled drama of “Planet Claire” (Pierson still nailed the wail), the racing “Whammy Kiss” and intense debut single “Rock Lobster.” The last tune (sampled by Panic! at the Disco on its latest album) brought to mind vintage KROQ and totally electrified the crowd.
Those masked men in Huntington Beach’s the Aquabats also thrilled many people – especially kids – in attendance with a zany 45-minute set that included a mock battle with chicken and crocodile characters, plus multiple inflatables tossed out by roadies dressed as technicians.
The pop punk/ska band – widely known for its Daytime Emmy-winning children’s series “The Aquabats! Super Show!” – performed humorous songs such as “Super Rad,” “Fashion Zombies,” “The Shark Fighter,” “Pizza Day” and “Waterslides” – primarily sung with enthusiastic vigor by frontman Christian “MC Bat Commander” Jacobs.
My review originally appeared at ocregister.com