March 7, 2016 The B-52s Rock The Space at Westbury, NY 2-26-16
Who does not enjoy going to a good party? That is why when the World’s Greatest Party Band, the B-52s, come to town, the only plans one should make is going to the show. Originally forming the band in 1976 in their hometown of Athens, GA, they soon found themselves traveling to New York City to get their start playing venues such as the world renowned CBGB’s. After gaining momentum and popularity, they released their self-titled debut album in 1979. Over the years, the band had many successes building themselves as a unique, quirky bunch that no one could deny were simply fun. Then, in 1989, their fifth studio album, Cosmic Thing, soared to the top of the Billboard Album chart and yielded their first ever Hot 10 hits, “Love Shack” and “Roam.” Now expanding their reach to a much more mainstream audience, they played to sold-out audiences on a worldwide tour which lasted more than eighteen months, including an Earth Day event in New York City’s Central Park where they played to nearly 750,000 people.
Since then, the band has survived, but more than that, they have thrived. With one of the key Vocalists, Cindy Wilson, taking leave for several years to start a family, her return was announced in 1996. Here, she rejoined Vocalist Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider along with Guitarist Keith Strickland, who is still part of the fold, although retired from touring as of 2012. Still moving audiences in 2016, the band’s touring lineup now consist of the core of Wilson, Pierson, and Schneider, along with live members Greg Suran (guitar), Tracy Wormworth (bass), Sterling Campbell (drums), and Ken Maiuri (keyboards). No stranger at all to the Long Island, New York region of the USA, The B-52s returned to The Space at Westbury on Friday, February 26th. Marking their second visit to the state-of-the-art venue, their first being in January of 2015, this time around they would have just as enthusiastic of a turn out. Looking around in the lobby, it was evident that there were a lot of hard-core fans coming out to see their favorite band. Not only did many of them proudly display concert tee shirts from past year’s shows, but many of the ladies were dressed up and had their hair done just right in the classic bouffant style. The fans were of all ages, even some families who brought all their generations, from grandparents down to very young grandchildren, for what they knew would be a fun packed event.
The opener was an Americana act from Hudson Valley, NY, The Mike + Ruthy Band. Leading the band is an affectionate married couple, Mike Merenda (Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica, Banjo) and Ruthy Ungar (Vocals, Fiddle, Banjo, Guitar) who were joined on stage this evening by Jacob Silver (Bass), Konrad Meissner (Drums), and Ken Maiuri (Keyboards). Promoting their debut album, Bright As You Can, which was released in June 2015, the group was honored and excited to be performing for the audience as Merenda opened their show by saying, “We are really looking forward to tonight! This is our first time playing with and seeing The B52s in concert.” They played many songs off their debut album, including “Rock On Little Jane,” “Simple & Sober,” “Chasin’ Gold,” and “Legends Only Appear In Black And White.”
Mike and Ruthy have been playing together a long time and have released several other albums as a duo. For their latest release, Bright As You Can, they decided to make a high-octane record, comprised of songs they could tour with a band. This energy was present as this very polished act performed these songs to an audience that was not familiar with their music. As their set played on, the audience was grooving to the melodies and cheered after each song. Before their final song, Ungar said, “I am such a fan of the B-52’s! We are so glad to be here and so glad to play for such a great audience! Thank you.” They closed the set with the song “On My Way Home” and the audience clearly enjoyed it as they sang along at the end to the lyrics, “On My Way Home.”
During the intermission, the venue’s general admission floor arrangement was filling to its capacity, as well as the seating on the upper levels. Long time radio personality, and Long Island native, Larry the Duck, currently from SiriusXM’s 1st Wave, came on stage to happily introduce The B-52s and get the show started. Revving the audience up, he asked, “Are you all ready for the world’s greatest party band?” He received a unanimous “Yea!” Going on to talk about various things related to the evening, he closed out his introduction by exclaiming, “This band deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!” The fans were happy to agree.
Then the celebration began with The B-52s coming out on stage and getting the audience pumped up with the first song, “Pump,” from the 2008 release Funplex. Some fans had begun to fill big balloons with air and released them for the audience to volley them about. Once the song was over, Schneider commented on the pink balloons, saying that they reminded him of the recent bladder control medication commercial where the person is followed around by the big pink bladder, some fans shouted in agreement. Then they played the title track off their 1982 EP, “Mesopotamia” and then jumped right into “Private Idaho” from 1980’s Wild Planet. Taking the fans back to the beginning with their 1979 debut release, The B-52’s, they played “Lava” and “Dance This Mess Around,” when midway through the song, Schneider requested the audience to “Come on and shake your assets!,” and the fans were shaking it all about.
Before the next song, Pierson said, “We are so thrilled to be back here in Westbury!,” and several fans screamed out, “We are so happy you came!” Keeping the party going, they played “Revolution Earth,” from 1992’s Good Stuff. Before the next song, Pierson said, “Let’s all go on a trip.” Then the band kicked into “Roam,” from 1989’s Cosmic Thing, and each time the chorus came up, one could clearly hear the fans singing along. They then played another one off their debut album, “52 Girls.” Before playing another song off of Wild Planet, Pierson asked the fans, “Who here has ever crashed a party?” A lot of the audience raised their hands while others cheered, Pierson replied, “Wow, lots of party crashers here tonight!” As she grinned really wide, the band began the song “Party Out Of Bounds.” Once the song was over, Schneider prepared the fans for the next song. He said, “At this point we are going to take everyone to the future where you have four eyes, two heinies, and I’m not even going to talk about the front.” As he and fans laughed a bit, the song he was preparing them for was another off of Funplex, “Love In The Year 3000.” They then played the song that asks, “Is That You, Mo-Dean?,” another off of Good Stuff.
With flirty smiles being regularly exchanged between Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson throughout the show, Schneider commented, “You girls are naughty! Trying to keep this PG. So here is a wholesome family song.” But fans that know the words to “Strobe Light,” from Wild Planet, know better than that. Once the song was over, Schneider said, “Since we have these two naughty girls up here, we are going to do another wholesome song for you.” Then they played “Whammy Kiss,” off of 1983’s Whammy! Once the song ended, Schneider stopped to say, “Our dear granny always said that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t get it to introduce the band!” He then went on to introduce each band member and the audience screamed and cheered after each introduction. Then, as soon as the first few notes of the next song began to play, the fan’s cell phones were raised high in the air to catch a video of the classic party song “Love Shack” as the fans were dancing, jumping, and having a great time.
Schneider and Pierson took turns saying “Thank you” and “Thank you so much” as the audience cheered away. They all waved to the audience and blew kisses as they all left the stage. With much screaming, cheering, and whistling, it was not long before the B-52’s came back out on stage. Closing out the night, they did two last songs from their debut album, “Planet Claire” and the irresistible “Rock Lobster.” During the finale, “Rock Lobster,” all in attendance were singing along while they were dancing, jumping, and raising their arms in the air mimicking lobster claws with their hands. Once the song was over, Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson all took turns saying “Thank you” and wished everyone a good night and safe trip home. However, Schneider had one more request, “Take those pink bladders home with you!” Their band mates joined Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson as they took a bow and waved goodbye before leaving the stage.
The B-52s really know how to throw a party, and it was clear that everyone who attends their parties have a great time. Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson’s vocals were all to perfection and their dance moves were fantastic. The three of them played so well off of each other’s actions and it created such a fun environment for the audience to feed into. The musicians that accompanied them were superb and really knew how to keep the party vibe going. The vibrancy and youthfulness of the show is something not to be missed. The tour continues long into 2016, so be sure to catch them for a night of pure fun.