Every time they take a stage, the B-52’s prove that there never has been another band remotely like them — even without their old thrift-store costumes and beehive wigs. At the Independent, a no-nonsense, 450-person-capacity San Francisco club, the veteran New Wave act road-tested a high-energy set that combined its all-purpose party anthems like “Love Shack” with jaunty new songs from Funplex, its first album in 16 years. Whether this stop on a short club trek was a dress rehearsal for Cyndi Lauper’s much larger True Colors summer tour or a way for the quartet to recharge its batteries at the kind of small joints it abandoned soon after unleashing its 1979 debut, the Athens, Georgia-originated band proved its singularly kitschy fusion of surf, garage and sci-fi dance-rock has aged as well as its members.
Opening their show with the locomotive rhythms of Funplex‘s “Pump,” the four surviving B-52’s faced their enthusiastic fans in a line formation at the front of the stage that rarely shifted during the entire 100-minute set. >Keith Strickland on the far left kept alive the spirit of original guitarist Ricky Wilson with jagged, percussive riffs. Cyndi Wilson batted her long metallic silver lashes at the crowd with a hand on her hip as she belted “Give Me Back My Man.” Fred Schneider barked out his distinctive spoken vocals, showed off his Egyptian dance moves during “Mesopotamia,” and did most of the between-song banter. “Hi, diehard fan,” he answered someone in the audience. “I hope I die hard.” Like most of his quips, this admission was met with knowing cheers. Kate Pierson on the far right shared blaring close harmonies with Wilson as she shimmied to activate red billowing shirt sleeves that contrasted with the other members’ basic black duds. Pierson just turned 60, and she can still squeal those impossibly high-pitched “Rock Lobster” squeaks.
Wilson, Schneider, and Pierson traded round-robin vocal lines in combustive classics like “Private Idaho” while drummer Sterling Campbell, bassist Tracy Wormworth, and guitarist-keyboardist Paul Gordon provided clock-steady accompaniment. The crowd accordingly danced without pause. It had no choice.