The Montreal International Jazz Festival closed this year with a high-energy performance by the B52s.This funky quartet from Athens, Georgia is most famous for their 1978 debut single, “Rock Lobster” and the 1989 hit, “Love Shack.” It’s been over a decade since the band rocked Montreal but they continue to have a strong fan base here.
Over 100,000 fans crammed into the outdoor stage area stretching from Maisonneuve Blvd to Ste. Catherine Street to enjoy the free concert. With beer flowing and spirits high, it was a rocking party under the stars.
It wasn’t just Montreal fans attending — plenty of Americans crossed the border to enjoy the outdoor concert. When the band came out dressed in their party clothes grooving to the beat of Pump, we knew it was going to be a fun time. With only eight records in almost 35 years, the B52s have made their mark as a party band performing across North America. Who doesn’t have a fond memory of the band?
Hardcore fans have followed the group through their 2008 release of their new album, “Funplex.” The band’s name comes from those fabulous 1950s beehive hairdos that mimicked the nose of the B52 aircraft. While neither band members Kate Pierson nor Cindy Wilson was sporting their trademark beehives, there was still plenty of hairspray complementing the retro-chic band that Montreal so appreciates.
Redhead Kate sported a post-modern beehive that set off her silver lame skirt with a matching top and peace sign earrings. Cindy Wilson was also retro-cool with her blond hair piled up, sporting black shades, a black miniskirt, and boots. And then Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland were both decked out in plaid. Their outfits were obviously coordinated with the patio lantern lighting to give off the aura of wacky fun. With the B52s, the visual effect is as fun as the music.
The cramped space did not stop the crowd from bopping along to the New Wave surf music. For the older fans, it was a way to relive those summers of wilder days and silly romances. For younger fans, it was all about discovering how this band has earned its reputation for partying. The roars of appreciation momentarily drowned out the opening lines of their trademark songs “Strobe Light,” “Private Idaho,” and “Good Stuff.” But the fans were just reflecting back the rockers’ high energy and enthusiasm.
At the end of the B52s’ set, the crowd demanded more and the band returned to perform “Rock Lobster” as their encore. Strickland’s indestructible licks drove the crowd into frenzied appreciation. For some, it was what they had been waiting for all evening.
The concert ended with spectacular fireworks. In true Canadian style, the display celebrated the festival while nodding to our American pals, who were celebrating their Independence Day. B52s delivered at the Jazz Festival by delivering a cool, grooving blowout. Everyone had fun and you could almost forgive those pushy fans who tried to shove their way closer to the stage.