When The B-52s made the announcement that a tour stop would be in Orlando, FL, I was excited. They’re a band I’ve enjoyed since my college days and the fact they’re still going strong makes me happy. And the Orlando crowd felt the same way. It was a sold out show and the majority of the crowd was there at door opening. Inside, fans were wearing B-52s merch, some women had their hair up in a beehive style, and some even wore lobster hats on their heads. I found a good spot for photographing and talked to some fans while we waited. From my conversations, the one thing I noticed is all of them loved the liveliness and fun The B-52s music emanates. And I completely understood.
The openers that night was a band from Orlando known as The Sh-Booms. The band formed in 2011 wanting to deliver soul and rock n’ roll to their fans. Well known for, as they described, “horn-fueled, soul-soaked presence”, they’ve been listed as Orlando Weekly’s “Best Soul Act” four times. The Sh-Booms also describe themselves as “garage soul”. The band is no stranger to the stage and have shared it with acts such as Candlebox and St. Paul & The Broken Bones. The Sh-Booms are Alfred Ruiz (bass/vocals), Brenda Radney (lead vocals), Davis Schleicher (guitar), Tony Aguirre (guitar), Earl Hoback (0rgan), Kevin Connolly (drums), Nick Walsh (trumpet), Bryan Sherbrook (tenor sax), and Mike Ortiz (trombone).
When the band took the stage I was surprised to see eight people standing there. The last time I remember reviewing a band that big was Flogging Molly. Besides your expected guitar, bassist, and drummer, there was also an organ player and a horn section including a trombone, trumpet, and saxophone. They opened up with an instrumental intro titled “Admist Chaos” before Brenda (also referred to as Mizz Bren – Supreme Queen) came to the stage to perform “Detox to Retox”. The song has this groove beat that you can easily dance to, which is what Alfred was doing while playing. Brenda started it out with a lower bass like vocal and the moment she hit the chorus she let her vocals rip and it was amazing. The band too matched in intensity and power and the crowd focused in amazement of the talent on stage. They received a great round of applause and I sensed this was going to be a great performance.
They followed up with “Leon the Hustler” and followed that with “Dry Eyes”, which comes off their 2017 EP. “Dry Eyes” was a fun song, with an upbeat, and beautiful horn incorporation. I truly enjoyed the insertion of the horn section during the chorus and Nick, Bryan, and Mike are accomplished performers. As The Sh-Booms performance went on, the fans were truly appreciating their music. Though they were very different in sound than The B-52s, The Sh-Booms are a standout act of their own. One of their other stand out songs that night was “Usage Fee” which comes off their 2016 EP of the same name. It’s a catchy tune that does provide their own blend of soul music. Brenda was dancing all over the stage and Alfred was right there with her while he played his bass. They surprised the crowd with a great cover of Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party”. But, the song that I truly appreciated was “Audible”. A slower song than the majority of their set, but it’s this song that truly shows all the talent held on that stage. Perfect sounds fused with spectacular vocals (from both Brenda and Alfred) plus raw emotion you can feel poured into the song made it the perfect closer. I literally had goosebumps on my skin listening to the performance. And the crowd loved it as much as I do. The Sh-Booms definitely made me a fan and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that night.
Next up was our headliners The B-52s. They originally formed in 1976 out of Athens, GA and released their first single “Rock Lobster” in 1978 with “52 Girls” as the B-side. “Rock Lobster” became a hit leading the band to sign their first record contract and releasing their first album titled “The B-52’s”. The album had re-recorded versions of both songs and would be certified Platinum. The band would go in their career to release 3 additional albums all with great success. In 1987, lead guitarist, Ricky Wilson, passed away from AIDS while they were working on their next album. The band went into a short hiatus and eventually return to release ‘Cosmic Thing’ in 1989 which had the hit singles “Love Shack” and “Roam”. They followed up with ‘Good Stuff’ in 1992 and then went into a longer hiatus from studio albums until 2008 when they released ‘Funplex’. While the band has not released a new studio album since ‘Funplex’ they continue to tour often. The B-52s are Fred Schneider (vocals), Kate Pierson (vocals), and Cindy Wilson (vocals). Their touring members include Tracy Wormworth (bass), Sterling Campbell (drums), Greg Suran (guitar), and Ken Maiuri (keyboards, guitar).
As soon as the lights dimmed on stage the crowd roared. The B-52s took the stage with Fred, Cindy, and Kate was dressed up and ready to rock. They started out with “Cosmic Thing” from the album of the same name. They jumped to the fun right out the gate with “Cosmic Thing”. Fred leads the vocals with Kate and Cindy providing backup vocals. It’s a fun song that is a great example of their new wave and rock music mix. They were already rocking the house and the fans were dancing and singing along. They followed up with “Dance This Mess Around”. “Mesopotamia” was next from the EP of the same name. It is definitely one of those that have that groove, electronic rhythm, and unique vocal style to make it a B-52s song.
Before the show, I noticed there were signs saying no video recording from cell phones during their performance. Every time someone tried to record, a security guard flashed a light into their phone to get them to stop. At one point after a song, Fred even said: “Put your phones down and just enjoy the show!” The B-52s then played “Private Idaho” from their album ‘Wild Planet’. I always enjoyed this song for its fast pace and vocal style. It’s a great sing-along tune. The crowd was partying along and having fun. At one point, the crowd was providing Cindy some huge cheers for her vocals. She was overwhelmed by the response she nearly started to cry on stage.
Fred left the stage for Cindy and Kate to perform together. First was “Revolution Earth” from their 1992 album ‘Good Stuff’. Kate handled the primary vocals since Cindy did not appear on that album. They followed that up with “52 Girls”. And then performed “Roam” from ‘Cosmic Thing’. The crowd was loving it as was I. This song was so memorable for me as it came out when I was in college and The B-52s actually performed at my school when this song was released. Besides, it’s truly a well written and well-sung song by Kate and Cindy. Fred came back to the stage to perform “Party Out of Bounds”.
As soon as those infamous beats started for “Love Shack” the crowd screamed in joy. The House of Blues crowd was dancing like crazy and singing along. You could see how much the band was enjoying the crowd response. The followed up with “Planet Claire” going back to their first album. I’ve always enjoyed the song for its science fiction theme and sounds. The B-52s closed out the show with the only song that made sense, “Rock Lobster”. The song that broke them out was the one the crowd would remember most. What blew my mind were the sounds Kate was able to perform like it is on the recording. Hearing it is one thing. Seeing it performed live is mind-blowing. The crowd was dancing in every spot in the House of Blues and The B-52s was leaving them with a memorable performance of the song. After they finished the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
This was an amazing show that evening. The Sh-Booms and The B-52s provided the crowd with great entertainment that evening. The B-52s are still just as strong as they were when they first started. Fans of The B-52s should never miss out on one of their live shows as it is truly a unique experience.