B-52’s & The Members
13th Aug 2013
Louder Than War’s Alex Staszko reports back from what, for him, is the gig of the year so far.
It’s been 5 years since the B-52’s played a hit laden set in Manchester. I thought tonight’s gig would be the same, but no, it was a set laden with obscure album favourites, and the crowd loved it, so did I. I did consider writing a review that just said-
But in the end I thought I could do a little better.
The openers tonight were old punk band The Members, who had one big, classic hit “Sound Of The Suburbs” in 1978, which was played as set closer tonight. They were already on when I arrived at 8pm, the first couple of songs washed over me, it wasn’t until they played reggae tune “Offshore Banking Business” that they started to win both the crowd & I over, even though it was a little short tonight (the original 12” clocked in at over 6 minutes). We got a band introduction from lead vocalist JC Carroll & it was then I realised the drummer at the back was Rat Scabies, doh! Amazing as a drummer Rat is, his talents do seem a little wasted on a 30 minute support slot. After “Offshore Banking Business” the set picked up somewhat, a great elongated take on debut single “Solitary Confinement” which the crowd love, & A big US hit “Working Girl”. Track “Sound Of The Suburbs” is introduced by JC with the words “the people in the city think they own it all”, quite fitting really. The song ends with a near standing ovation (except the crowd are already standing). Who would have thought that The Members would have gone down so well with a B-52’s audience? After I wrote this I checked out their tour dates & at one point their schedule read, Wigan, Kiev, Minehead, I challenge any band to better that!
So, on to the main act, whose set was not exactly full of all the hits, “Planet Z”, “Good Stuff”, & “The Flintstones” are all missing. Not that I’m complaining – I prefer the more obscure stuff.
Set opener, debut single (US only, for pedantic people only), “Planet Claire” has male lead vocalist, Fred Schneider marching round the stage like a demented alien, whilst dual female vocalists, Kate Pierson (the red haired one) & Cindy Wilson (the blonde one), stand behind small percussion set ups still looking as fabulous as ever. Kate sings the ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh bit that is normally on keyboards & it sounds fabulous. This wasn’t a big song over here, unless you were in The Hacienda in 1982/83, when it was played all the time, & it gets an amazing standing ovation at the end.
This sets the tone for the rest of the night, with song after song being danced to by the 1800 in The Academy (note to promoters, if you want a full venue, don’t charge nearly £40 including booking fees for your tickets).
We get “Dance This Mess Around” from the first album, in which the audience are invited to dance like crazy, & indeed they do. The 3 singers do actually perform all the 16 dances mentioned in the song!
We also get softer, slower songs like “Roam”, which has the most wonderful female harmonies from Kate & Cindy, and it’s to die for! “Another slowy, Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland” from 1986’s lesser known “Bouncing off the Satellites” shows off Cindy’s solo vocal talents well.
“Mesopotamia” has the band doing the old music hall Egyptian sand dance and along with “Java” has the audience dancing round like crazy. As well as the 3 original members they have a tight backing band (guitarist Keith Strickland has recently decided to stop touring), rhythm section, Sterling Campbell & Tracy Wormworth, along with Paul Gordon on keyboards & guitar, & newest member Nick Glassley on guitar.
From start to finish it’s a joyous experience, through lesser known songs such as the danceable “Whammy Kiss” (which unfortunately breaks down shortly before the end) & “Legal Tender”. All the way though to set closer, & biggest hit, “Love Shack” (I’m sure when it was written they never thought it would spawn a bad nightclub of the same name in Ashton-Under-Lyne).
After a short wait and much applause we are treated to 2 early songs, “Party Out Of Bounds”, & debut UK single & hit (& the first single I ever bought, so it’s their fault I’m a music fan) “Rock Lobster”. Indeed both are great, & the 3 people who have been waving the 3 inflatable lobsters all night go mad, a fitting end to a fine evening.
Just don’t wait so long to come back & don’t charge so much money to get in.
Dance this mess around
Girl from Ipanema goes to Greenland
Love in the year 3000
Is that you, Mo-Dean?
Party out of bounds
The B-52’s tour continues into Germany after the UK stint, & The Members continue touring for the rest of the year.
See a full photo gallery from the show below.
All words & pictures by Alex Staszko. More writing by Alex on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.