Wednesday, June 24

The B-52s' local appearance last week was one of those good news/bad news kind of affairs.

Good news: In a departure from most shows at Centennial Hall, no one stepped in to stop anyone from dancing—and to varying degrees, the audience, indeed, did dance. Bad news: A security guy did chastise a father for letting his (approximately) 8-year-old daughter step into the aisle on occasion while doing so.

Good news: The sound didn't seem to be hampered by the room; in fact, at the Wilco show the week before, the sound was great. Bad news: The engineer running the soundboard clearly didn't know how to deal with the room, because the mix was mostly a muddy mess. Occasionally, he'd get it right, and one was reminded how it should have been sounding. Or, for example, when lead shouter Fred Schneider tapped out a few notes on a glockenspiel, the clarity of the sound was almost startling compared to the din that surrounded it.

Good news: The B-52s played what was essentially a greatest-hits set that spanned their entire career. Bad news: The first part of the set was frontloaded with relatively lackluster, formulaic songs from Funplex, their first new album in 16 years.

The crowd skewed older and was there for the hits. When "52 Girls," a beloved cut from the group's first album, was performed with more gusto than perhaps any other song of the evening, only pockets of dancing erupted. The next song, the somewhat lame "Roam"—which just happens to be one of the B-52s' biggest hits—was given a rote treatment, as if they really didn't want to perform it, but felt obliged. But never mind that: The entire hall on its feet within its opening notes.

The B-52s have always been a party band, a dance band, and a wildly energetic band. But with the members now well into middle age, there were some odd moments, not to mention a distinct lack of energy in spots. When the group performed "Strobe Light," one of the goofiest and sexiest songs in their catalog, one couldn't help realizing it was coming from aging hipsters with expanding waistlines trying to replicate the same sense of silly seduction that came so effortlessly 30 years ago.


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