Blu-ray Review: The B-52’s – With the Wild Crowd! Live in Athens, GA

“Live in Athens, GA” should be music to the ears of any B-52’s fan: the band, their home town, and a crowd filled with adoring fans. But they’ve been playing live for more than 30 years.  Has the band held up against the test of time?

The first impression that the band makes is visual: they don’t appear to be wearing wigs!  While most bands would appear gimmicky if they didn’t change their look after 30 years, they B-52s’ image has always been enhanced, if not defined by their retro-kitsch style. That being said, nearly everyone in the crowd appears to be wearing a wig, which almost makes up for the lack of sky-high bouffantitude on behalf of Kate and Cindy.

The set list overall is a delightful mix of hits, cult favorites, and new songs — which unlike most bands in the “retro party band scene” were fresh, fun, and distributed intelligently enough throughout the concert so that even a basic Love Shack/Rock Lobster-type fan would still be able to follow along.

The band themselves may not be as young as they once were but they still bust out some sweet dance moves on numbers like “Mesopotamia.”  And though they may lack for headgear and costume, they’re dressed to impress.  Cindy’s dress in particular is eye-catching, and she goes barefoot for a good portion of the show.  Nothing says Relaxed like bare feet, and that fun-loving vibe carries through the entire show.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Fred’s delightful playing of the glockenspiel on “Give Me Back My Man.”

The show runs approximately 131 minutes but it truly flies by when you’re in the company of the B-52s.  Audio is top notch on this release; the lossless audio didn’t have any issues I could detect.  All members of the band and their instruments come through with clarity.  Visually, there are some definite issues with posterizing (the concert’s predominantly blue lighting plays havoc with color gradients).  Still, the visuals have plenty of detail so it wasn’t too distracting.

There aren’t a lot of extras but the 30-minute interview with the band is a great addition to the disc.  The band reminisces about their history, from their origins and early concerts, to their chart-climbing days, and all the way up to the present day.  Throughout the interview they are relaxed and happy, frequently finishing each other’s thoughts, and vintage photos are shown to enhance their stories.  B-52s superfans and neophytes alike should enjoy the interview, a delicious cherry on top of an already wonderful concert video cake.

–Tim Hulsizer, with the invaluable assistance of Ms. Pamela Sheasley, a true B-52s scholar

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