The B-52's, the only pop band to make silliness seem subversive, dusted off its goofy genius at Wolf Trap on Monday.
A muggy and rainy weeknight at the nation's stateliest amphitheater doesn't seem like a great setting for a dance party. But from the spacey and surfy opening bars of "Planet Claire," a tune from the group's 1979 debut, a dance party was indeed thrown.
The B-52's launched the Athens, Ga., musical scene that dominated college radio and even seeped into the mainstream in the early 1980s. They've recorded little since guitarist Ricky Wilson died of complications of AIDS in 1985, but the surviving members of the original quintet are still a big concert draw. Tunes from the 1989 comeback disc, "Cosmic Thing" -- including "Channel Z," "Roam" and, of course, "Love Shack" -- remain great dance numbers, but lack the quirk quotient of the group's earliest cuts.
The lyrics of "Private Idaho," as with most B-52's numbers, are harder to make sense of than the plot of "Donnie Darko." But nobody in the crowd was looking for depth as Fred Schneider bopped around the stage and yelled, "Get out of the state! Get out of the state you're in!" For "Mesopotamia," perhaps the band's artiest work, Schneider flashed even better moves, and at times looked like Pee-wee Herman doing tai chi. "Quiche Lorraine" had Schneider seeking the lost poodle that, after all these years, he's yet to find: "Has anybody seen a dog dyed dark green, about two inches tall, with a strawberry blond fall?"
Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson no longer have the high-rise hairdos that gave the band its name, and their dance moves have lost a step from back in the day. But they can still wail. And wail they did on "Dance This Mess Around," in which a girl who can't find a dance partner protests to the boys: "I'm not no Limburger!" The show ended with the girls shrieking on "Rock Lobster," the best pop song Yoko Ono ever influenced.
-- Dave McKenna