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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Night in Cleveland: The B-52’s

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 9:17 AM

The last time the B-52’s released an album, it was 16 years ago. Good Stuff was a brave but futile attempt at soldiering on without founding member Cindy Wilson. The new Funplex, in essence, sounds like the proper follow-up to the 1989 blockbuster, Cosmic Thing. Two days after celebrating her 60th birthday, Kate Pierson joined soul sister Wilson, resident space-cadet Fred Schneider, and guitarist Keith Strickland for a sold-out party at House of Blues that was positively cosmic ... The group’s 90-minute set started with Funplex’s foot-stomping opener, “Pump,” and veered quickly into a double blast of ’80s hotness: 1982’s “Mesopotamia” and “Private Idaho” (complete with the age-old “Idaho. No, you da ho!” joke). That pretty much set the tone for a show that was part nostalgic trip, part new-CD promotion, and part dance party. The B-52’s sprinkled a half-dozen cuts from Funplex throughout the set, wisely surrounding them with fan faves like “Party Out of Bounds” and a huge chunk of Cosmic Thing. “Juliet of the Spirits” (a Funplex highlight) launched a multi-song showcase for Pierson and Wilson’s glorious harmonies, while Schneider retreated from the stage to do whatever it is that Fred Schneider does when he leaves the stage. “Let’s take a trip!” was Pierson’s rallying cry as the B-52’s soared into “Roam.” Then Schneider returned for Funplex’s title tune, filling up on lines “I’m at the mall on a diet pill!” At the end of the song, Schneider warned the audience to stay away from pills. That was the only word of caution all night. Party was the main goal of an ecstatic crowd that mixed young and old into one common groove. Not so surprisingly, “Love Shack” closed the set, as the packed audience sang along to each and every line – even drowning out the group at times. A three-song encore culminated in “Rock Lobster,” the cut that fired up the group's career 30 years ago. “Love Shack” might have brought down the house, but “Rock Lobster” made damn sure that it wouldn’t be rebuilt. You could literally feel the venue rumbling under all those people busting moves. Throughout the show, the B-52’s not only proved that new-wave weirdos could age gracefully, they still know how to throw one hell of a party. --Matt Wardlaw

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