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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

June 18, 2009 at 12:47 AM

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Review: The B-52s at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by Andrew Matson

Short review: It was fun.

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Long review after the jump.

Also, I shot video, but my internet connection is bad and won't allow uploading right now. Stay tuned. and "Give Me Back My Man" and "Planet Claire" are after the jump, too.

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The totally fun, totally family-ed out scene at Woodland Park Zoo Wednesday proved there's nothing like the B-52s in concert.

The sold-out crowd was jubilant, and on stage, the B-52s not only sounded great, but its members seemed better looking and more powerful than regular humans. Vocalists Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, and Kate Pierson radiated energy, and even seemed to affect the weather, which went from rainy to sunny. The sky was glowing orange when the concert finished around 9:00 p.m.

"Having a good time on a crummy day is our game!" drawled Schneider at one point with emphatic defiance. It was a sign of the B-52s' singular power: The band brightened every moment its music occupied.

Songs from 1980 album "Wild Planet" were excellent, including "Quiche Lorraine," "Private Idaho," and "Give Me Back My Man," which platinum-haired Cindy Wilson tore through like she was karaoke-ing her favorite sinister '80s hair metal song. Shaking her stuff around the stage in black satin shorts, she and Pierson, who wore fishnet sleeves and a '20s-style flapper dress, put out a leggy image of playful female power that was big on shameless winks.

When Wilson and Pierson harmonized, it was a thing of beauty. They used stomach muscles when they sang and projected hard, unafraid to take their ringing voices to rough territory. And they danced like cavewomen at a go-go party. Fred Schneider was a deadpan wisecracker, and looked fit in his black and white plaid t-shirt.

Kids ran everywhere in front of the stage, all over blankets on the lawn, and up the grassy knoll just inside the Zoo's North entrance. And everywhere kids weren't, adults did "the monkey" and gave off a slight white wine smell.

Witnessed in the flesh, the B-52s' genuine weirdness was apparent. Twin sirens and a snotty, gay, Southern carnival barker? Who ordered this band?

But the B-52s didn't give the ZooTunes crowd what it wanted. Only what it needed.

Okay, it probably gave them exactly what they wanted. But by the way the audience danced, and the way every eye, child and adult, stayed trained on the characters on stage, it was clear something deeper happened than at a most rock concerts. It was partially that the B-52s' members were so obviously uninhibited, but also that the audience seemed to be okay with that. Levels of uninhibited-ness stacked up and pushed the mood into summertime euphoria.

Though now an American institution in what could be its bloated "Beach Boys in the '80s" phase, the B-52s came off lean and mean Wednesday, justifying more than a few attendees' $45 scalper purchases.


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More photos (by Courtney Blethen) here.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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