The 80’s were in full effect here in Cincinnati last night as I took my daughter to her first live concert! The B-52’s and The Go-Go’s were in town and what better way to introduce my 8-year old to the concert scene than with 2 groundbreaking bands from my youth? So…on a drizzly, swampy night down at Riverbend’s PNC Pavilion, we walked through puddles and the rain to get to our seats before the B-52’s took the stage. Despite the weather, both bands were fun and on top of their games and were a genuine pleasure to see live!
The B-52’s, one of the quirkiest bands to ever grace the stage, came right out and got into the mood with “Planet Claire,” a track from their 1979 self-titled album. From there they ripped through song after classic song, with the highlights being “Roam,” “Rock Lobster” and (obviously) “Love Shack,” their biggest hit from 1989. My personal favorite was “Whammy Kiss,” a song that sounds MUCH better live than it does on their album, “Whammy!” from 1983.
After a 30 minute layoff for set changes, The Go-Go’s came out and opened with “Get Up & Go” and the title track from their 1982 album, “Vacation.” From there they did mostly songs from the groundbreaking 1981 album “Beauty & The Beat” as they ripped through “Tonight,” “How Much More,” “Automatic” and “Fading Fast.” After a brief interlude where they mixed in lead singer Brenda Carlisle’s big hit “Mad About You,” the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and Jane Weidlin’s “Cool Places,” they proceeded to finish the album off with “This Town,” “Skidmarks On My Heart,” Our Lips Are Sealed” and a cool mashup of “We Got The Beat” and Kiss’ trademark song “(I Wanna) Rock N Roll All Night.” It was at this point that my daughter & I left the show. Despite having a good time, Ava was getting a little tired and so…we decided to beat the rush. At the point that we left, they had done most of their hits anyway (although I have to imagine they did “Head Over Heels” in the encore) so it didn’t bother me to leave a little early.
I can say this about both of these bands…they have aged very well. Despite not having hits for many years, they both definitely have a great setlist from their past. The B-52’s, being one of the quirkiest acts in the history of music, still have a stylish sense of who they are and what their sound is. They have always been the odd band out from Athens, GA but seem to relish the fact that they helped develop the alternative pop scene from their era. Their unique brand of music mixed with their flamboyant wardrobe (Kate Pierson wore a 60’s throwback one-piece polka dot outfit last night, Cindy Wilson had her trademark beehive hairdo) and Fred Schnieder’s unique vocals have made that band hard to dislike through the years. They are the ultimate party band and EVERY college student from 1978 through today know who the B-52’s are.
The Go-Go’s, despite not having the flourishing history of the B-52’s, still have enough personality and hits to keep your attention during their hour and 45 minute set. I know “Beauty & The Beat” almost by heart (that album and REO Speedwagon’s “Hi Infidelity” were on constant rotation at the local video arcade) and all of the bandmates have gone on to have success in one form or another. Belinda Carlisle is absolutely captivating as she dances around on stage. Despite her attire (she was simply dressed in a black top and jeans and sported a ponytail. Not that there is anything wrong with that but she could have very easily blended in with anyone in the crowd!), she has a certain flair that keeps you watching her even when she’s not singing, much like Stevie Nicks. Jane Weidlin wore a hat with cat ears and her signature outfit. She also had a brace on her knee from her surgery a couple of years ago but that didn’t slow her down as she walked the stage and had fun with the crowd. A few times during the show, Gina Schock came out from behind her drum kit to joined the band in front of the stage. It is obvious that she is very much a leader in the band and an entertainer who likes to joke around and have fun. Guitarist & keyboardist Charlotte Caffey also had her moment when she mentioned that it was nice to see such a large crowd that WANTED to see live music…not the recorded lip-synching bands of today. This made me chuckle a little bit as they went to start a song and then flubbed it up. I don’t know if that was on purpose or not but it was a funny moment and it was nice to see the band having such a good time together despite some hard times both individually and as a group.
Overall, both bands were exactly what I expected to see. Neither over-extended their song lists and they seemed to be having a good time. This translated over to the audience which sang along to their bigger hits, clapped along to some songs they probably didn’t know and remained standing through most of their sets. I would have liked to have seen the Go-Go’s perform more of their solo songs such as Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” or Weidlin’s “Rush Hour” and possibly even letting Gina Schock do a song from her solo album, but for the amount of time they were on stage, they did were tight and kept the hits coming! It was a good show for my daughter’s first concert experience and it was blast seeing the 80’s revisited one more time with her.