Saturday, December 05, 2009

B52s LIVE: They came from Planet Clare

Melbourne has many old theatres. Most of these grand old dames have been revamped and rebuilt in the last few years. Their beauty restored but in this process they have lost some of their character. Some may say that it was that lived in look, so to speak. One still remains that has not had a spit and polish - still rusty, dusty and musty, like something out of an old movie. Given its age I’m not surprised if you see the ghost of Norma Desmond herself on any given night peering out of one of the towers balcony on Flinders Street haunting the corner below. The building is from a forgotten bygone era, the paint is cracked and its guarding gargoyles saddened by its faded glory. And its one of my favourites in town as it's still got 'it'.
Unlike its sisters in the trade which now stick to strictly musicals and the suchlike, The Forum still plays a variety of entertainers. Its forte are comedians [see Melbourne comedy festival] and live music. It’s not surprising that that band once described as the new wave kiddie rock punk band – The B52’s came to play. After the support act of the Proclaimers [Lady Norton - my date du jour - was pleased to hear them sing about their in-common hometown of Leith] the 30+ aged crowd was getting very excited by the headline act.

Now I have been an avid fan since the 80’s of this band and have been waiting to see them live since then. Yes it did start with Love shack [Even Rocklobster was before my time] but then I collected all their previous albums and listened to music that I never would have heard before [52 girls, Dance this mess around and Devil’s in my car to name a few]. My taste in music up to then consisted of Olivia Newton John, Bananarama and Wham [yes I way too gay beyond my years]. The success of the Cosmic thing album made them a worldwide household name. This after a long journey through tough gigs [The Mudd Club in NYC- the same era but the antithesis of Studio 54] music experimentation [Whammy & Mesopotamia to name a few], tragic loss [Cindy’s brother Ricky, the fifth band member sadly died of AIDS in the 80’s] and not to forgot all those god damn wigs.

So after donning three champers and a few pink frozen cocktails [aptly named Love shack] with the Lady Norton, the sound technician made his final checks and we are waiting for the countdown. Lights flash and Keith Strickland suddenly comes bounding out first. Now I have always fancied Keith – something about tall cute men. However I didn’t recognise him as Keith has decided to mix his look now into Goth & Marilyn Manson inspired- not what I remembered. Next was Fred Schneider - Fred did look like a very mad old homo and appeared not so happy to be there. But in fairness Fred was always the serious one and always looked like a mad old homo. But I was then nervous. Would Cindy Wilson just look like a Drag queen and Kate Pierson look like her mother - Goth like Keith and angry Fred troubled me so. Would they sound as good as I had heard so many years ago? Was their paint cracking ? Then the girls appeared, fine – sequins, feathers , 1960's frocks and those wigs – exactly what I thought they would look like. Good. No mothers of Drag Queens here. Good. Now breathe in and let them play.
They started singing. And they were...amazing. Fucking awesome actually.

Yes they are older [Jesus who isn’t] but their energy is still there. That very same energy they had when I heard them so many years ago in my teenage bedroom in Hamersley [so another story there but I digress]. And they played a variety of songs too [who doesn’t like a music buffet cooked up by their favourite band ?] Mesopotamia was earthy and rich while Private Idaho was punchy and exciting. Fred’s commanding lyrics in Strobe light made me shiver. Cindy singing Give me back my man ['Cindy Ill give you fish to sing that song again] and both of the girls blasting out Roam was so bloody fantastic it brought the house down. Lady Norton even managed to get us down to the front for the encore - Planet Clare & Rocklobster no less. So I did manage to Dance this mess around...and do all 16 dances.

They still got 'it'. I hear that even Norma was seen in the tower shimmying in a Lurex gown that night.

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