Aging well — or maybe not at all — with The B-52s

I had never seen The B-52s live, so what better time than a benefit for the Georgia Theatre and what better place than in their hometown of Athens, Ga.?

The 35-year old band played the Classic Center and obviously sold out the 2000 or so seats. And those seats were filled with all sorts flashy clothes, campy wigs, over-the-top jewelry — all being worn by a lot of happy, happy people.

The B-52s still sound great, with the trio of lead singers — Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, and Fred Schneider — somehow managing to keep their voices crisp and pure. The campy, upbeat, psychedelic embrace of the music is as alluring as it was decades ago — at least to those of us who first heard it decades ago. Granted, the 60-ish rockers don’t move on stage with the same manic energy that they once could.

It was obvious that The B-52s are still on their game early on in the show when they ripped into and through “Private Idaho,” which sounded an awful lot like the version right here, from way back:

We were seated back in KK (great seats), but I pushed up to the stage for “Roam,” with its dazzling pop opening:

Boy mercury shootin through every degree
oh girl dancin down those DIRTY and DUSTY trails
take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness
around the world the trip begins with a kiss

roam if you want to
roam around the world
roam if you want to
without anything but the love we feel

The B-52s are a great party band, for sure, but I have always thought that songs like “Roam” and “Love Shack” tap into something deeper and broader. They’re mythic songs that promise utopia just around the corner, just below the surface. In reality, that love shack back in the woods is probably a pretty crappy spot, but in the telling and the singing, The B-52s give it urgent life:

After a few minutes in the aisle near the stage, we were gently pointed back to our seats by security (who seemed to be having a pretty good time all night too). There were two encores, finishing with “Rock Lobster,” of course:

It’s a ridiculous song, and ridiculously fun, but it’s mythic too:

Underneath the waves
Mermaids wavin’
Wavin’ to mermen
Wavin’ sea fans
Sea horses sailin’
Dolphins wailin’

The opening act Casper & the Cookies is a young Athens band with some similar elements to The B-52s. They did what they needed to do to get the crowd in the mood, but the three primary singers haven’t mastered the interconnected vocals that make The B-52s so special. I’d love to see Casper & the Cookies in a smaller venue sometime.