Words: Sue Static and Peter Schorn. Photos: Peter Schorn/RockOutShots.com
MCB was in the audience for the Summer tour of two of the '80s best party bands, the B-52's and The Go-Go's on Tuesday, June 25th at Detroit's Chene Park. The riverfront amphitheater is a great setting for concerts with its backdrop of the Detroit River and Windsor skyline. The venue and staff were great and hopefully the theater will bring more shows like this to the city.
The Go-Go's opened the show and played a set comprised half of songs from their seminal debut album, Beauty and the Beat; a trio from their second release, Vacation; and relegating Talk Show and God Bless The Go-Go's to token status with a mere one tune apiece ("Head Over Heels" and "Unforgiven" respectively). Whether it was the downbeat selection of tunes, heavy on slower, moodier numbers like "Automatic," "Fading Fast," and "Lust To Love, or the tensions within the group which led to bassist Kathy Valentine being booted in March and her suing them accusing of them conspiring to deprive her of her share, it was a surprisingly low-energy show. (I have seen them five times going back to 1984 and this was the first time I'd been disappointed. - PS)
That said, the light early crowd didn't seem bothered and were on their feet dancing to the hits, some even getting invited onstage to twist and frug to "Cool Jerk," their cover of The Capitols' Sixties chestnut. Belinda Carlisle's first solo hit, "Mad About You," and Jane Wiedlin's duet hit with Sparks, "Cool Places," were also played along with The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black." (Purely solo Wiedlin hits like "Rush Hour" or "Blue Kiss" and material from Charlotte Caffey's band The Graces or Gina Schock's House of Schock were also MIA.) The only truly rocking moment was when they whipped into a muscular version of "Rock and Roll All Night" in the middle of the show-closing "We Got The Beat," but by then it was too late. Some more peppy numbers like "Can't Stop The World" (whoops, Kathy Valentine was the sole writer of that), "Turn To You," "I'm The Only One," "The Whole World's Lost Its Head," and "La La Land" would've made for a set with more go-go.
Fill-in bassist Abby Travis was capable in her efforts to fill Valentine's spot, but her hired gun status was subtly illustrated by the weird (and petty) lighting setup which managed to leave her in near-darkness despite being situated on the front line between Belinda and Jane. Tacky and disappointing. And after all these years Carlisle still can't dance as America witnessed after she was eliminated after the first round of the dance competition show Dancing With The Stars.
"The World's Greatest Party Band," the B-52's brought the party to Detroit after a quick stage change-overs. They launched right into their set with "Planet Claire" off their debut album and followed it with their ancient hit "Mesopotamia," that debuted on local airwaves in 1982 by The Electrifying Mojo on his radio show on WGPR. Other hits that had the crowd dancing and singing along included "Private Idaho," "Love Shack," and an encore of "Party Out of Bounds" and their finale of "Rock Lobster" that had the audience in a frenzy.
Unlike The Go-Go's lackluster set, the B-52's after 35 years of performing these campy songs together still looked like they were enjoying themselves up there. The three core members (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson) look good - especially the GILFtastic Kate Pierson, who at 65 could challenge Helen Mirren for the Miss AARP Senior Cougar crown - and sounded great with the exception of a slightly pitchy "Roam." The crack backing band featuring drummer Sterling Campbell (who also played for David Bowie and Soul Asylum) and bassist Tracy Wormworth (if you've seen the video for The Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like," that's her) laid down a rich backing for the set.
A fun time was had by all, despite the downpour that ended the evening and made running back to the distant parking lots a damp dash.
More concerts are scheduled throughout the Summer at Chene Park for ticket information and to view the upcoming summer schedule check out the Chene Park website.