The B-52s became the world’s greatest party band in the late 20th century, yet their unique blend of high-energy music and showmanship make them a popular live act to this day.
Indeed, when the B-52s play at The Space at Westbury, on Friday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m., the crowd will likely reflect the band’s cross-generational appeal, says Lisa Arzt of Vector Management in Manhattan, the B-52s’ manager.
Arzt noted that the teenage children of the B-52s’ middle-age fans often join their parents at the shows, drawn to the group’s unmistakable dance-rock sound. The B-52s have sold more than 20 million albums in their 30-plus year career.
There is a demand for live B-52s performances, Arzt continued, because the band’s upcoming tour, which begins on Jan. 29 in Maryland, is its first since November 2013. Three of the original five members of the B-52s—Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson—are still on the scene in 2015, long after they first formed in Athens, GA, in the late 1970s. Wilson’s brother, guitarist Ricky Wilson, died of AIDS in 1985, a crushing blow to the B-52s. Wilson’s death also prompted Keith Strickland, who had played drums, to switch to guitar. Strickland announced in January 2013 that he was retiring from the road.
Moreover, the Jan. 30 Westbury show keeps the B-52s’ Schneider and Pierson near their New York homes. Schneider resides in New York City and Pierson is in upstate Woodstock, not too far from Port Chester, where they’ll be performing on Jan. 31. Wilson lives in Atlanta, close to where the group’s incredible career began.
“This year the plan is to play less shows, so it’s even more special for fans when they do pop up,” Arzt said, alluding to the 14-month touring hiatus the B-52s are about to end. “They bring so much joy to people,” Arzt added. “Rock Lobster,” one of the B-52s’ best-known songs, will be part of their set on Jan. 30 in Westbury, along with other hits, like “Love Shack” and “Private Idaho.”
Their most recent recordings, 2008’s Funplex, and 2011’s The B-52s with the Wild Crowd! Live in Athens, GA, were critically well-received. “Like a sonic shot of vitamin B₁₂, the dance floor beats, fuzzy guitar riffs and happy, shiny lyrics keep the energy going,” Newsweek declared, after Funplex’s release. The ‘happy, shiny’ reference was the magazine’s nod to Pierson’s collaboration with REM in the 1990s on “Shiny Happy People.”
The B-52s’ live concert in their hometown nearly four years ago prompted a Scripps Howard News Service reviewer to write, “How the B-52s have maintained their endearing vitality after all these years is a wonder, yet fans who hear With the Wild Crowd! will doubtless wish immortality on this uplifting band.”
The Space at Westbury’s ability to recruit the B-52s is further evidence of the site’s growing popularity among big-name performers. Situated at 250 Post Ave., The Space opened its doors in October 2013 where the Westbury Movie Theater once stood. Bowery Presents, the concert promoter with whom The Space at Westbury has been working, previously brought Billy Idol, Snoop Dogg and Better than Ezra to Post Avenue.
More on the B-52s concert, and the venue, can be found at www.thespaceatwestbury.com.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism.