Tribune sportswriter Bill Oram will soon cover the Olympics for The Tribune in London, but Monday he attended the B-52s and Squeeze concert at Red Butte Garden. Here is his report:
There are a couple of ways to look at the B-52s, who performed to a sold-out crowd Monday night at Red Butte Garden,
The first, and most tempting, is as a band that escaped relevance some decades ago and now, looking and sounding silly, performing karaoke hits in jumpsuits even David Cassidy gave up long ago. The musicality is not bad, but it doesn't register as good anymore, either. The call-and-answer gimmick between original members Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson is cartoonish as ever, and the weird, shrill dissonance that made the B-52s famous remains, well, shrill and dissonant.
What, you were expecting Springsteen? If you were looking for music that has withstood the test of time, you probably left after Squeeze, the British new wave band whose set was longer, tighter and more aurally pleasing.
But there was something simple and marvelous about the quick (one hour), 14-song set the B-52s played. It was reflected in the standing, swaying audience whose dance moves were as outdated as the members of the band. For the Gen-Xers who were there — and that was most of the crowd — the B-52s were more quirky and fun. This band represents a part of who they are and where they came from.
Are they relevant? Painfully not. But does it matter? It didn't to the Salt Lake City crowd. A B-52s that tried to be relevant and sound like anything modern would have been a greater fraud than passing off "Love Shack" as high art.
There are things to be criticized in the B-52s performance. Wilson (the blonde) struggled with the vocals and, sadly, could not match the power of Pierson, who even at 64 is an absolute dynamo.
While a B-52s set could easily be considered a rather long wait to hear "Love Shack," their most ubiquitous hit, the set rambled along quickly and enjoyably, so that by the time they reached the height of that song to close the evening (prior to a two-song encore), the general reaction was, "Done already?"
As the B-52s have repeatedly shown since their peak, the answer remains, "Not in the least."