The B-52’s complete their farewell tour tonight where their 45-year-long party began, in Athens, Ga. Siblings Cindy and Ricky Wilson, Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland played their first show in the Classic City on Valentine’s Day, 1977, combining surf rock and dance music with a thrift-store style heavy on the sci-fi vibes. Athens—and music history—would be forever changed.
I caught one of their final sets in Atlanta last Friday night at the Fox Theater after opener KC and the Sunshine Band got the party going. Led by 71-year-old Harry (“KC”) Wayne Casey, the 15-member Floridian band ran through their randy funk and disco hits, from ”(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” to “That’s the Way (I Like It).”
Then—without Ricky Wilson, who died from AIDS in 1985, and Strickland, who stopped touring with the band in 2012—The B-52’s trio of vocalists took center stage, launching immediately into “Private Idaho,” the biggest hit off their 1980 album Wild Planet. Their missing members were all over the videos projected onto a screen behind the band, recalling moments throughout their long history as “the world’s greatest party band.”
And while they might not have the unending energy of those late-’70s, early-’80s raves, they didn’t seem to leave anything in the tank on Friday. At 71, Fred Schneider wasn’t exactly jumping around the stage, but 65-year-old Cindy Wilson and 74-year-old Kate Pierson were singing and dancing all night long, as they ran through a dozen songs spanning their catalog, including my personal favorite “52 Girls” and late-’80s hits “Roam” and “Love Shack.”
They returned to the stage for a three-song encore that began with “Planet Claire” and ended with their very first single, “Rock Lobster,” featuring a dancing lobster mascot and ending with a rain of confetti. Four-and-a-half decades in, and their shows are still a party.
And while the tour may be over, the band that put Athens on the map will begin one of their two Las Vegas residencies this spring. You can catch them at the Venetian Theatre May 5 through 13 or August 25 through September 3—and shake your honeybuns!
Josh Jackson is Paste’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. He’s on Twitter @joshjackson and @BirdsAtl.