The B52’s first performed in earnest on Valentines Day 1977. Their bouffant’ hairdos were like their music – larger than life, as they went on to sell millions of records and squillions of concert tickets. – and if the sales are a little more sedate now, the band itself is not. Nor were the audience at the final Kunst!Palast concert of 2013 for that matter.
Support band Klimmstein’s closest claim to fame is that they teamed up with the son of Sting, Joe Sumner, to enter the Austrian heats of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011. They have ba poppy/light rock sound that didn’t really keep my attention too well I have to say – I found myself wondering why they are still named after founder-member Horst Klimmstein who is no longer a part of the Band, and asking whether I was imagining the presence onstage of a young lady playing a ukelele. They worked hard and energetically onstage though and the fact that the Uke wielding Stefanie Drexler had never heard of George Formby probably proves that mine is not the generation that goes to their concerts.
Which cannot be said of course for the main event. I remember a good friend enthusiastically playing ‘Rock Lobster’ to me many moons ago. It sounded like some mildly talented teenagers who had found a good drummer and rhythm and had decided to sing and shout any lyrics that came into their heads with (maybe) the intention of saying something a little more meaningful later. That day never came of course, and why should it? Millions of copies have been sold recalling that “We were on the beach, and everyone had matching towels… It wasn’t a rock – Rock Lobster!” or words to that effect. It was so off the wall that the B52’s became a semi-punk band in status and revered at hallowed concert halls like CBGB’s. It had to be a joke that would wear off didn’t it?
Thirty+ years later and it’s getting surprisingly busy in the luxury tent known as ‘Kunst!Palast. Since my last visit for Beth Hart there is good and bad news. The good is a cleverly placed mirror ball (you John Travolta fans will know the thing) making the tent roof a little less canvassy and a little more like the view from Starship Enterprise. The bad news is actually only bad if you want good photos. The ‘pit’ is about the width of an Easyjet gangway , and there is a typed list of ‘Don’ts’ from the band to read. Add this to the fact that the things not prohibited are actually impossible from where we have to make our stand and the best pictures will ultimately be from someones iPhone in the crowd. Rock n Roll…
After so many years of success it’s crazy really to question the band, their music, or their appearance. They are the B52’s – A Camp, Rocky Horror meets punk and says f*ck it, lets dance experience. The stuff of which legends are made.
Fred Schneider struts around the stage with a regular look of mock disapproval on his face. Someone once described a touch of the ‘Gameshow Host’ in the bands style onstage and it’s the perfect description for Schneiders persona.
With Keith Stricklands decision to cease touring, the bands main nucleus is now three-piece. and Schneiders shiny Tshirt competes with the fiery sequinned presence of Kate Pierson, whose energy would put many a musician half her age to shame. To Freds Right is the the ‘gravitas’ of the trio- blonde haired Cindy Wilson, whose solo version of ‘Girl from Ipanema goes to Greenland ‘ in memory of her late brother and former B52 founder-member Ricky was a highlight. Kudos also to the rhythm section of Tracy Wormworth (bass) and Sterling Campbell (drums). This is a band whose sound lives through percussion and they had the crowd waving hands in the air and feet on the ground all evening. Not a band for people who love their guitar solos these B52’s.
And plenty of hits of course. ‘’Own Private Idaho’, ‘Love Shack’, the fabulously funky ‘Is that you Mo Dean’ from 1992’s ‘Good Stuff’ and of course nobody was leaving until we heard ‘Party Out Of Bounds’ followed by the wild, whacky, and still esoterically wonderful ‘Rock Lobster’.
Do they sound like they’re making it up as they go along? Yes they do. Are they ever going to change? No they aren’t. Are we glad? Yes we are