More than ever, we’re pretty skeptical when seasoned bands announce farewell tours these days (Motley Crue, who reneged on their promise to cease touring via an actual blood contract, will forever be first of mind as big fat liars in this regard). But the B-52’s “Final Tour Ever Of Planet Earth,” which came to the YouTube theater on Friday, feels different. The core members are all in their 70s and the music they make is some of the most energetic and vocally demanding of the new wave era. It makes sense to go out on top while they still have the vigor to re-create the kooky party on stage, and the ability to deliver the weird high-register wails and chants that made them so unique.
Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson no longer sport the beehive hairdos that inspired the band’s name, but they do still pull off the cosmic croons we love on hits like “Love Shack” “52 Girls” and “Dance This Mess Around.” Frontman Fred Schneider is also able to recreate his Ethel Merman-esque rally cries with gusto and glee. In all, The B-52’s still give “Good Stuff” in concert. But it was clear that, for all the fun they were having, they truly mean this to be the end. From the array of vintage footage projected behind them throughout the show, to the set list, which opened with one of their best tracks, “Own Private Idaho” and ended with their signature hit, “Rock Lobster,” everything felt climactic.
Nostalgia is now more than ever, a huge part of the appeal for bands from the 80s. Personally, “Lobster” was one of the first 45″ singles we ever bought and we played it over and over again on a toy-like record player as a kid. Near the end of the song, when Schneider commanded us to go “down, down” we’d literally be laying down on the floor until the tune picked up again and got even faster and zanier than before, inspiring an all-out dance-happy explosion. The song made us lose it in the best possible way.
Who needed kiddie songs to wiggle to when we had The B-52’s, DEVO and The Buggles? We still feel sparks of joy when we hear songs from all these groups and recall how we moved and grooved to them growing up. Clearly we are not alone. At the You Tube, 40, 50 and 60-somethings all around us actually started sinking into their seats and the aisles at that pivotal “down down” moment, then popped back up and went nuts, making for a rousing end to the show. With opening act, KC and the Sunshine Band warming up the crowd, the energy in the room was volcanic (no, the band didn’t do “Lava,” one of our favorites from their ’76 self-titled debut, but “Give Me Back My Man” and “Strobe Light” made up for it).
As the show came to a close, a giant human-size lobster danced on stage and confetti shot through the air and filled the theater. Rare footage of the band throughout the years was projected behind them, and a lot of it was edited for full eye candy effect. Finally a message read, “TO OUR DEAR FANS: WE LOVE YOU! THANK YOU FOR 45 YEARS OF LOVE AND SUPPORT. — CINDY, KATE, FRED, KEITH AND RICKY.”
After another local show on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, the B-52’s have three shows left, including a final one in their home state of Georgia on November 13. We’re glad we got to shake and shimmy with ’em for the last L.A. gig, but we still have hope to see them again. The tour is touted as their last on “planet earth,” so “Planet Claire” is still fair game. Set list below.
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