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Friday, September 14, 2012

The B-52's: With The Wild Crowd: Live In Athens, GA


1) Pump; 2) Private Idaho; 3) Mesopotamia; 4) Ultraviolet; 5) Give Me Back My Man; 6) Funplex; 7) Whammy; 8) Roam; 9) 52 Girls; 10) Party Out Of Bounds; 11) Love In The Year 3000; 12) Cosmic Thing; 13) Hot Corner; 14) Band Intros; 15) Love Shack; 16) Wig; 17) Planet Claire; 18) Rock Lobster.

«Classic era» B-52's never put out a live album, which does not mean they couldn't put on a great live show: most likely, they saw no real need for this, since they allowed themselves so much freedom of action on their studio albums already — and the concerts were more remarkable in terms of show-biz flashiness and visuals (aw, those wigs!!!) than music, which mainly just strived to reproduce the whirlwind hooliganry and extravagance.

If so, why put out a live album when you're old and gray? Well, for one thing, it somehow seems easier to put things out in our modern era of overproducing everything. For another thing, this live CD is technically just an appendage to the live DVD — recording an entire show that the band did for their 34th anniversary at the Classic Center in Athens, GA. Hence, it does not really make much sense to hunt for the audio separate from the video, even if the level of energy and the sheer ratio of crazy things done onstage is predictably nowhere near the stuff one can see in the band's early, sketchy, skimpy camera relics.

But, with all the necessary age-related corrections introduced, the band still looks and sounds great. Somehow, Kate and Cindy manage not to come across as freaky grandmas, and it has far less to do with the wonders of plastic surgery than with the amazing fact that their vocal powers have remained practically intact. Well, almost — it is a fact that they can no longer hit the high­est notes on the "wigs on fire, fire, fire, fire" bit, but the scale is still scaled to an impressive height all the same. And Fred... well, Fred will always be Fred, even after they freeze him out of the storage locker in ten billion years' time.

The «anniversary setlist» is a little disappointing — you'd expect it to be a more representative career overview, but instead, they focus too closely on Funplex material, as if, three years into its release, there'd still be people around needing to be convinced to buy it. Five out of eleven songs is definitely a bit of an overkill. Although, granted, the live performance of these numbers scrapes away some of the stuffy production polish — ʽLove In The Year 3000ʼ, in particular, benefits heavily from a little less electronics and a bit more liveliness from the rhythm section.

The «oldies», meanwhile, are quite predictable: most of the big hits are here, with just a few no­table exceptions like ʽDeadbeat Clubʼ, and the only album that gets completely snuffed is Good Stuff — probably not because it is their worst offering, but because it lacked Cindy's input, and she might have been unwilling to add her parts to the likes of ʽHot Pants Explosionʼ (and I can so totally understand it). The only unexpected, and much welcome, inclusion is ʽ52 Girlsʼ from the debut album; elsewhere, you just know that the setlist has to end with ʽLove Shackʼ (for all the young hedonists), ʽPlanet Claireʼ, and ʽRock Lobsterʼ (for the certified veterans).

What else is there to say? The sound quality is expectedly perfect, the stage banter is limi­ted (even the entire band introduction, what with all the extra players, is performed in a matter of about fourty seconds), and the professionalism is undeniable — they still put on an energetic, funny, and intelligent live show, and all it takes is about thirty seconds' worth of ʽPrivate Idahoʼ to understand this (you try reproducing all these woo-hoo-hoos without erring as you hit sixty). If With The Wild Crowd is destined to become the last bit of semi-original product from The B-52's — although they might easily have another Funplex-level album somewhere deep inside their systems — it's a nice, well-rounded swan song. And am I really glad they did not forget about ʽMesopotamiaʼ: this live version is a real atmospheric super-killer even compared to the studio version, which was no slouch either. Thumbs up.

Check "With The Wild Crowd" (CD) on Amazon
Check "With The Wild Crowd" (MP3) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heard this. And I don't know if I will. Something about a live album from the B-52s in this decade just seems... unnecessary? Maybe I'll pick up the DVD one of these days.
    They really should put out a classic-era live album. Preferably from the Wild Planet tour, cus they had plenty of great songs by then, and they hadn't yet made the jump to their synth-fest of a live setup that they used on the Whammy tour. Some of the youtube clips from back in the day are really strong. Ricky and Kieth played off each other really well.