After missing The B-52’s at least three times before, I was determined to at last watch them perform in Louisville, this time at Whitney Hall inside the Louisville Center for the Arts. I’ve been a pseudo-super fan of the band since I was a kid, mostly because my dad and aunt raised me on their upbeat, fun-as-fuck brand of sci-fi rock and roll. Nothing was going to stop me from seeing “the world’s best party band” this time, nothing whatsoever. Yeah, I know this isn’t the full original lineup (RIP Ricky Wilson) but I was more than excited regardless.
To thicken up their songs a bit, The Louisville Orchestra was enlisted for further theatrical atmosphere. The band opened their set with “Planet Claire” alongside a full backing of the orchestra, but after that, for much of the show the orchestra was mostly inactive. I’m not sure how these sorts of unconventional mash-ups work, but they were almost unheard from for the remainder of the set. When the orchestra did actually perk up and do something, it was almost a surprise as I’d forgotten they were there. Maybe they were just being droned out by the band, and they were sitting in a pretty dark spot on the stage behind the drum kit, so who knows.
The band’s set list was full of crowd pleasing hits such as “Party Gone Out of Bounds,” “Private Idaho” and “Love Shack” while peppering in a healthy dose of deeper cuts like “Mesopotamia,” “Strobe Light” and “Channel Z.” I’m happy to report that Kate Pierson’s and Cindy Wilson’s vocals sounded absolutely amazing, especially when harmonizing together on songs like “52 Girls” and “Roam” (go here for a full setlist). Fred Schneider was on point as the hype man/party starter/whatever the hell you call him. I was selfishly hoping for a song from his Shake Society solo record, but no dice.
Perhaps the most memorable thing about this concert was the bizarre mix of people in the audience. You had your usual dad-rock loving couples that have maybe had one too many bourbon and cokes, and you had a large amount of 60+ folks (full dressed in coat and tie) that apparently had no idea who the B-52’s are and were only there because they had some sort of season pass to all the events at the Center for the Arts. The minority group was absolutely the few mid-thirtysomethings (like me) that were just begging for everyone to stand up and dance, which thankfully did happen a few times. While not on my feet shaking my ass, I was toe tapping and finger snapping harder than I ever had in my life, bringing on a relentless euphoric sweat for most of the evening.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to this show, but hot damn I couldn’t have been more happy with the result. The sound wasn’t perfect (the drums were too low, in my opinion) and there were technical difficulties (Kate Pierson’s wireless mic died during “Private Idaho”) but I left Whitney Hall with about as big a smile on my face as I’ve had in a long time.
Watch a short video I took of The B-52’s performing “Lava” below: