Depending on your point of view, Athens, Georgia’s B-52s are either the greatest party band of all time, or quite possibly the gayest — and I mean that in the most non-homophobic, politically correct sort of way.
Either way, it’s still kind of hard to fathom that the same late-1970s Athens alternative college-music scene that produced R.E.M., could have also produced the B-52s. Talk about your politically correct diversity, something that all the while set wild new standards for musical contradiction. This concert DVD from the folks at Eagle Rock, captures the B-52s returning to their hometown for a triumphant concert some 35 years after they made their initial splash there.
And, man, did this show bring out the freaks. All decked out in glitter and boas, the audience is nearly as fun to watch as the performers onstage.
Looking beyond the obvious though, the B’s more than live up to their well-earned reputation as the Ultimate Party Gods here. The band backing the four principal party-starters here — vocalists Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, and guitarist Keith Strickland (I always loved his vintage Ventures surf-rock sound) — is also tighter than it has any right to be. Kate and Cindy also both still look pretty hot, albeit in kind of a middle-aged cougar sort of way. Fred hasn’t aged nearly as well — and for the party guy he made his reputation as, he also looks a bit stiff here at times. No matter though. With all the psychedelic imagery and late-1970s new-wave disco sounds here — working in concert with a truly crack band — this B-52s concert is still a party strictly out of bounds. Just as it should be.
One of the things I always loved about the B-52s though, was their use of Farfisa organ (quite possibly the most missed musical instrument in all of pop music, outside of the wah-wah pedal, or in prog terms, the mellotron). The mighty Farfisa rocks in abundance here.
This is exactly why a B-52s show — in addition to the obvious, over-the-top party atmosphere — is such a guilty pleasure for an obvious music geek like me. Nobody ever said that songs like “Rock Lobster,” “Gimme Back My Man,” “Party Out Of Bounds,” or “Planet Claire” — all of which are performed excellently here, by the way — were going to change the world or anything. But they do have this amazing way of making you forget about your sorry excuse for a life for a minute, don’t they?
In that sense, the B-52s are kind of the ultimate guilty pleasure.
I’ve also gotta admit that watching this B-52s concert on DVD brought back some very vivid memories of one of my best friends completely laying drunken waste to the song “Love Shack” at the local karaoke bar, long ago with his then girlfriend. That stuff literally had me blowing beer outta my nose.
Whether you were actually there back in the day or not, this concert DVD is guaranteed to have you living back in your own “Private Idaho,” if only at least for a minute. The band is also smoking hot. But otherwise, you can file this one strictly under the “guilty pleasure” category, right next to those old Abba records you and I both know you keep hidden under your pillow.