If this is it – if the B-52s really are flipping the sign on the Love Shack door from “Open” to “Closed” and walking away – then Friday’s show at the YouTube Theatre was a bittersweet blast of a sendoff for the quirky new wave band from Athens, Georgia.
Of course, plenty of bands have gotten lost on the road to the Rock and Roll Retirement Home. The Who just played a pair of local shows four decades after their first farewell tour. Elton John has three Dodger Stadium shows later this month on a goodbye tour that first visited Los Angeles in January 2019.
But you never know. The B-52s might mean it: They are calling this The Final Tour Ever of Planet Earth. And if they do, they’ll have left fans with fantastic memories of Friday night in Inglewood on a tour that also stops at Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday.
It’s been 45 years since the B-52s’ released their debut single “Rock Lobster” and set out to conquer the world dressed in thrift-shop fashions, with the towering bouffant wigs that gave the band its name, and songs that felt like dreams of Atomic Age space alien invasions, Southern kitsch culture, and ’60s beach party movies.
You know, weird. But fun! With a beat you can dance to.
After a five-minute video of career highlights, the curtain dropped to wild cheering for singers and co-founders Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson who kicked off the show with “Private Idaho,” Schneider barking out his lines – ‘Get out of the state! Get out of the state you’re in!” – as Wilson and Pierson wailed behind him.
(Original drummer-guitarist Keith Strickland retired from the road a decade ago, and founding guitarist Ricky Wilson, Cindy’s brother, died in the mid-’80s.)
The band’s self-titled debut and sophomore album “Wild Planet” featured prominently early in the show, with songs such as “Give Me Back My Man” featuring Cindy Wilson pleading for his return, singing, “I’ll give you fish! I’ll give you candy / I’ll give you everything I have in my hand, ” if only he comes back.
“Will Cindy ever find her man?” Schneider intoned like an old-timey radio dramatist. “Tune in next week. Or tomorrow night!”
From there, the band played what Schneider described as their kind of love songs. “Strobe Light,” in which they sing, “Wanna make love to you under the strobe light,” and “Love In the Year 3000,” which opens with a chorus of “Robots, bootybots, erotobots.”
Midway through the set, Schneider left the stage for Wilson and Pierson to sing “52 Girls,” the flip side of the “Rock Lobster” single, and “Roam,” a lovely tune that reached No. 3 on the charts.
More love songs – “Good Stuff” – and goofy, weird songs – “Dance This Mess Around” – and throughout all this pretty much everyone in the packed theater was on their feet, dancing and singing along.
Most of these songs were very well known, with perhaps “Is That You, Mo-Dean?” the closest to a rare track. (It also features these awesome opening lines: “Waitin’ for bus number ninety-nine / Goin’ to the store for hot dogs and wine,” after which our hero Mo-Dean embarks on a journey to outer space for 987 years. Because it’s a B-52s song.)
“Love Shack,” the group’s biggest hit and probably the one everyone, fan or not, knows, closed out the set with a rousing extended version in which Fred urged the crowd to sing louder to the end. (“Bang, bang! On the door, baby!”)
For their encore, “Planet Claire,” one of their Top 5 best songs if you ask me (or even if you don’t) launched things. “Pump,” a lesser-known one from their last studio album, “Funplex,” way back in 2008 followed.
And then, with everyone knowing it was coming, “Rock Lobster” wrapped it all up, its classic baritone surf guitar riff instantly recognizable, followed by Schneider’s increasingly urgent warnings (“Here comes a bikini whale!”) and Wilson and Pierson’s otherworldly vocalese.
Oh, and a big red lobster mascot with rainbow lights on its antennae came out and danced on stage, too.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremonies in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 5, and no, the B-52s aren’t in it. But they should be, because at a time in the late ’70s and ’80s when rock was often too serious and self-righteous, this wacky little band out of Athens, Georgia reminded everyone that rock and roll is supposed to be fun.
Opening for the B-52s on this tour is KC and The Sunshine Band, who played a nine-song, 45-minute set that was packed with more hits than you might have remembered until they played them all and the memories flooded back.
The band led by singer Harry Casey had five No. 1 singles in the ’70s: “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “(Shake, Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “I’m Your Boogie Man,” and “Please Don’t Go.”
Add to those other classics such as “Keep It Comin’ Love,” “Boogie Shoes,” and “Give It Up,” and throw in a five-minute drum solo so the singers and backing dancers can change, and you’ve got a crowd-pleasing show indeed.
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