The B-52s and Squeeze in Concert at Charter One Pavilion
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Featured review from Dan
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B-52's opened, Squeeze headlined, as God intended. The B-52's were good, but not especially exciting - though that may have been an effect of the ridiculous heat and of the fact that I was really there for Squeeze, who brought their A game, as usual, and played a terrific show. They highlighted all the old favorites and showcased a handful of new songs. Looking forward to their eventual next album. All in all, the evening was a blast.
About the B-52s
It is well known that the B-52s are the World’s Greatest Party Band. And thirty years and over twenty million albums into their career, there can be no doubt as to why The B-52s remain among the most beloved rock stars ever. Any mystery concerning the longevity and ongoing appeal of the band is immediately solved when exposed to a unique B-52s concert experience. From the timeless gems of “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire” and “Private Idaho” to the more recent classics “Channel Z,” “Love Shack” and “Roam”, the B-52s’ unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time their music begins.
Formed on an October night in 1976 following drinks at an Athens, GA, Chinese restaurant, the band played their first gig at a friend’s house on Valentine’s Day 1977. Naming themselves after Southern slang for exaggerated “bouffant” hairdos, the newly-christened B-52s (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson) began weekend road trips to New York City for gigs at CBGB’s and a handful of other venues. Before long, their thrift store aesthetic and genre-defying songs were the talk of the post-punk underground. A record deal soon followed and their self-titled debut disc, produced by Chris Blackwell, sold more than 500,000 copies on the strength of their first singles, the garage rock party classic “Rock Lobster,” and “52 Girls.” The B-52s began to attract fans far beyond the punk clubs of the Lower East Side, galvanizing the pop world with their ‘stream-of-consciousness’ approach to songwriting and outrageous performance. They had clearly tapped into a growing audience for new music that was much larger than anyone could have anticipated. “We always appealed to people outside the mainstream,” says Kate Pierson, “and I think more people feel they’re outside the mainstream these days.”
With the release of their second studio effort, Wild Planet (1980), the B-52s and co-producer Rhett Davies proved their success was no fluke with hits with “Private Idaho,” “Give Me Back My Man” and “Strobe Light.” In just two albums, the B-52s created a lexicon of songs, styles, phrases and images which would set the standard for the development of the ‘alternative music scene’ for the next decade. The success of Mesopotamia_, produced by David Byrne (1982), and Whammy! _(1983) positioned the B-52s as MTV regulars as well as alternative radio staples.
At the time of their greatest achievements, however, they suffered their greatest tragedy — the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS. “He really had a vision,” said sister Cindy Wilson. “He was one of the strongest elements of the B-52s from the beginning.” Ricky Wilson’s passing in 1985 came just after the sessions for_ Bouncing Off The Satellites_ (1986). The album, dedicated to Wilson, had taken nearly three years to complete but was worth the wait, serving up the fan favorites “Summer of Love” and “Wig.”
As a period of mourning, Keith, switching from drums to guitar, gradually resumed writing music for a new album. Working together on vocal melodies, lyrics and arrangements for the new tracks, Keith, Kate, Fred and Cindy re-emerged with the Don Was/Nile Rodgers co-produced _Cosmic Thing _(1989). The album proved to be the greatest commercial achievement for the group, and its success propelled the band to international superstars.
Cosmic Thing soared to the top of the Billboard Album chart, sold five million copies and yielded their first-ever Hot 10 hits — “Love Shack” and “Roam” and a Top 40 hit with “Deadbeat Club.” The B-52s advanced their reputation as the greatest party band on the planet to a whole new generation of music fans. They played to sold-out audiences worldwide on a tour that would last more than 18 months, including an Earth Day gig before nearly 750,000 people in New York City’s Central Park.
Soon after, Cindy Wilson amicably departed. “I’d been a B-52 for a long time, and it just felt like time for a change,” said Cindy. Before long, Wilson had successfully completed her first solo project — a baby girl. Meanwhile, Kate collaborated with other artists, including Athens compatriots R.E.M., for whom she guest-starred on their 1991 album Out of Time. She also scored a hit with fellow CBGB’s alum Iggy Pop on his lovelorn duet “Candy.” Fred, meanwhile started work on a solo project, _Just Fred _(1996), with producer Steve Albini, his second solo project since the release of 1984’s Fred Schneider and the Shake Society.
As a trio, Fred, Keith and Kate re-enlisted the tag team of Was and Rodgers to produce the energetic G_ood Stuff _(1992). With its popular title cut and concert favorite “Is That You Mo-Dean?,” _Good Stuff _is more than just a worthy follow-up to Cosmic Thing: the album stands as the group’s most overtly political album. “We’re out there to entertain people,” said Fred, “but it’s great to get people thinking and dancing at the same time.”
Reuniting permanently with Cindy, the B-52s wrote and recorded two new tracks that fit perfectly into_ Time Capsule,_ a 1998 stellar collection of hits. The first single from the Best Of collection, “Debbie” is a metaphorical tribute to band friend and supporter Debbie Harry and the whole CBGB’s scene of the late ’70s.
With the release of the two-disc collection_ Nude on the Moon: the B-52s Anthology _(2002), the B-52s took much-deserved credit for a body of work that is unique, beloved and timeless in its own way. The B-52s influence cuts a wide path through much of so-called ‘modern rock’ — from the low-fi efforts of nouveau garage bands to the retro-hip of ultra-lounge, to the very core of dance music itself. “We just did our own thing, which was a combination of rock ’n ’roll, funk, and Fellini, and game show host, and corn, and mysticism,” says Fred. It is indeed all these things (and much more).
In 2008 the B-52s released their first new album in 16 years, the aptly titled Funplex. With its primal guitar hooks, driving drums and the B-52s’ unmistakable vocal style, Funplex is instantly recognizable as quintessential and contemporary B-52s. Newsweek Magazine declared, “Like a sonic shot of vitamin B12, the dance floor beats, fuzzy guitar riffs and happy, shiny lyrics keep the energy going.”
As the B-52s continue to take their party-music revolution into the 21st century they show no signs of slowing down, serving up their own unique blend of music and showmanship to millions of fans around the world.
The B-52s Touring Band
Sterling Campbell – drums. Sterling has worked with numerous high-profile acts. He rose to attention in 1986, touring with Cyndi Lauper on her her True Colors World Tour. Sterling was a member of Duran Duran from 1989 to 1991. He became a member of Soul Asylum in 1995, playing with them until 1998. He began recording with David Bowie in 1991 and toured with him from 2000-2004. Sterling joined the B-52s’ touring band in 2007.
Paul Gordon – keyboards/guitar. Paul’s career has included live performance, production, and composition for television and film. The many acts he has worked with include Goo Goo Dolls, New Radicals, Natasha Bedingfield, Prince and Lisa Marie Presley. Music he has written for television and film include Themes for _Digimon _(Digital Monsters), _Transformers _(Robots in Disguise), _Wild Force Power Rangers, Huff _(Showtime) as well as the many songs for major motion pictures. Paul joined the B-52s’ touring band in 2007.
Tracy Wormworth – bass. Tracy played bass in 1980’s group The Waitresses. She has performed and toured with Sting, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Ruth Brown, Barry Manilow, Phyllis Hyman and Joan Osborne and was a member of the house band on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. She has recorded with The B’s, The Waitresses, Lena Horne, David Lee Roth, Regina Carter, Joan Osborne and numerous others. Tracy has been performing on and off with the B-52s since 1990.
It’s 1973 in South London. Teenage friends Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook form the band that will see them dubbed ‘The New Lennon and McCartney’. Over 35 years later, with their legacy intact and as vital as it has ever been, Squeeze are still touring and reminding fans worldwide just why they have left such an indelible impression on the UK’s music scene.
As teenagers on the South London scene, Squeeze — setting out their stall early on by facetiously naming themselves after a poorly-received Velvet Underground album, and at the time also comprised of Jools Holland on keys, Harry Kakouli on bass and Paul Gunn on drums – became a fixture of the burgeoning New Wave movement. When Gilson Lavis replaced Gunn on drums everything seemed to fall into place, and word of mouth soon spread about the band – ironically, it was none other than Velvet Underground man John Cale who caught wind in 1977 and offered to produce their debut EP ‘Packet Of Three’ and much of the ensuing album.
Yet it was second album ‘Cool For Cats’, released in 1979, which cemented their place as one of Britain’s most important young bands. Featuring the classic single ‘Up The Junction’ as well as the title track, it was many listeners’ first introduction to the witty kitchen-sink lyricism and new-wave guitar music that has become the band’s trademark. With albums ‘Argybargy’ and the Elvis Costello-produced ‘East Side Story’, Squeeze even started to make waves across the pond, although in 1980 former Roxy Music and Ace – and future Mike + The Mechanics man Paul Carrack would replace Jools Holland, going on to lend his unmistakable vocals to the smash hit ‘Tempted’.
By 1984 Squeeze had disbanded. The chemistry between Tilbrook and Difford could not be as easily dismissed however, and the ensuing record they made together has become the “lost” Squeeze album for many fans. But the band couldn’t lay dormant for long, as Squeeze reformed the next year for ‘Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti’, along with Holland, Lavis and Keith Wilkinson, Squeeze’s longest serving bass player. Over the next 12 years Difford and Tilbrook remained the only constant element as Squeeze continued to receive critical acclaim, release albums and tour, with the likes of ‘Hourglass’ becoming their biggest ever hit in the USA.
Despite an official Squeeze break-up in 1999, Difford and Tilbrook continued to make music and gig with the same enthusiasm and abandon that they brought to Squeeze’s first EP, either with their own solo projects or with each other. Chris Difford has released three solo albums to date, and toured the country several times with his unique one man show – while Glenn Tilbrook, meanwhile, has also released three solo albums, with 2009’s ‘Pandemonium Ensues’ heralding the debut of his other band The Fluffers and saw him recording with Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. He too has toured relentlessly with The Fluffers, and most recently has recorded an album as “The Co-Operative” with blues veterans 9 Below Zero.
Charitable work also plays a large role in their lives – Tilbrook has also been an active member of the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which sees him join fellow musicians such as founder Mike Peters (The Alarm), going on treks and climbing some of the globe’s greatest landmarks in order to raise money to help treat cancer sufferers throughout the world. Difford meanwhile spends many hours working with recovering addicts and alcoholics in prisons and rehab centers, with musical workshops, performances, and by telling his own inspirational life story. Chris like Glenn has released his own solo work most notably with Francis Dunnery on the much-acclaimed album I didn’t get where I am.
As befits one of the UK’s much-loved acts, there is no end of Squeeze fans currently wearing their influences firmly on their sleeve, whether it be Mark Ronson, Kasabian, Supergrass, Lily Allen, The Feeling or Razorlight. With their fingerprints keenly felt throughout the fabric of popular music, it is only right that these songs, with their evergreen and popular sound, continue to be played and enjoyed live. And so since 2007, a newly reformed Squeeze have been slowly finding time to play a series of gigs and festival dates, preferring to reaffirm their abilities as a band rather than follow some of their peers who have come out in a blaze of publicity, only to be met with disappointment.
The new Squeeze line-up, their most able yet, is completed by Squeeze veteran John Bentley, Simon Hanson and Stephen Large who has also recently graced the stages of Duffy and Rebecca Ferguson - and has become an instant favorite on the festival circuit since reforming, with 2 appearances at V, Oxegen, T in the Park, Womad and Latitude to name a few. They are about to embark on their 3rd US tour, built around an appearance at the prestigious and world famous Coachella festival. They return to the UK to play selected Summer festivals including Hampton Court and Cropredy – before embarking on a national 20 date tour in November.
Now the subject of a major BBC documentary in the works, Difford and Tilbrook are also working on the first new Squeeze material in over 15 years.
Squeeze’s contribution to music has been noted in 2010 with the site of their first gig being awarded a prestigious PRS For Music Heritage Plaque, which has so far commemorated the debuts of Blur and Dire Straits. It joins an ever-increasing list of Squeeze accolades alongside their recent Ivor Novello for Outstanding Contribution to British Music and their Nordoff-Robbins Icon Award and the Mojo Icon Award.
Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have survived everything over the years, from the ever-changing musical landscape to their own internal reshuffles and acrimonious breakups – still going strong and still loving every moment.