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Concert Reviews:
B-52's and friends close Meadow Brook season with rocking nostalgia

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- "Rock Lobster," "Planet Claire" and the rest of the B-52's music may have seemed like it was from, well, another world back in 1979 ago, when the group hit the worldwide scene from Athens, Ga. But 40 years on it's legendary, and a go-to fixture for anyone who wants to party out of bounds.

And that was certainly the case on Saturday night, Sept. 15, as the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre closed out its 2019 season with a celebration of MTV yesteryear that also included the British synth pop of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark as well as Berlin, which is celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year. The entire package affirmed the timelessness and relevance of music that was once on the outer edges of pop but has become entrenched and nostalgic -- in some cases thanks to shrewd song placements in movies -- but doesn't at all sound dated.

Berlin, in fact, has the most current pole staked in the ground, with a new album ("Transcendence") and a reunion of singer Terri Nunn with group founder John Crawford and original member David Diamond. With just 35 minutes to play on Saturday the sextet didn't have much time to dally and got right to it with its 1984 hit "No More Words," charging through the song as vintage video clips played on a screen at rear stage and Nunn worked the front of the stage in a glittery sequined jacket. "The Metro" and "Masquerade" followed, with new tracks such as "Show Me Tonight" and "Transcendance'" title track carefully placed between the old favorites.

Nothing, of course, was more impactful than "Take My Breath Away," the Academy and Golden Globe Award-winning smash from "Top Gun," which Nunn sang standing on a chair in the middle of the pavilion, amidst a sea of cell phone cameras. She and Crawford recreated their once provocative duet "Sex (I'm a...)," then delivered the biggest surprise of the night -- a slamming cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" that Nunn dedicated to the group's late guitarist Malcolm Young.

OMD was likely just as surprising to some in the Meadow Brook crowd, too. The group's legacy has existed in the shadows of peers such as Duran Duran, The Cure and others, but on Saturday it showcased its own substantial body of work, from the proggy touches of "History of Modern (Part 1)" and "So In Love" to effervescent dance-pop like "Enola Gay," "Secret," "Dreaming and Locomotion." "We've come to kick your asses with synthesizers. You'll love it!" announced singer and bassist Andy McCluskey -- whose droll, self-deprecating humor was an act unto itself -- OMD did just that, with a tight and upbeat 50 minutes as well as its movie hits, "If You Leave" from "Pretty in Pink" (complete with film footage and Molly Ringwald stills) and "Tesla Girls" from "Weird Science."

"We shall be back," McCluskey said at the end of the set, and Saturday indeed made OMD a must-see on return.

The B-52's meanwhile, may not return. The group has announced its 40th anniversary trek will also be its last full-on tour, and you could see during their genial and goofy 80 minutes on stage that Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson are kind of over it -- although still invested in putting on the party that's expected of them. They don't put up the buoffants and put on the glittery costumes (Wilson in particular looking ready to board a "Star Trek" craft) for nothing, after all, and the trio, with a tight and funky four-piece band behind it, made sure everybody was able to, as the song says, "Dance This Mess Around" one more time, accompanied by own arsenal of vintage video -- not to mention DJ Cummerbundís hysterical pre-show video mash-up of Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock Lobster" (aka "Detroit Rock Lobster").

"Private Idaho" provided a fierce lift-off for the 14-song set, while "Mesopotamia" stomped harder than its recorded version. "Whammy Kiss," "Strobe Light" and "Channel Z" were welcome deep cuts from the catalog -- though the former was played out of order, much to the group's visible bemusement. Schneider took a three-song break to let Pierson and Wilson show off their unique vocal harmonics during "Deadbeat Club," "Juliet of the Spirits" and "Roam," and "Love Shack," with its reference to a "big as a whale" Chrysler, featured a bit of War's "Low Rider" before the bang-bang-bang breakdown.

"Planet Claire" and "Rock Lobster" brought the show to a frenetic close, just as they started things off 40 years ago. The B-52's may be dialing down, but on Saturday it made sure everybody got down -- and left feeling decided upbeat from the experience.

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