New Wave's The B52s and the Boston Pops meld seamlessly at Tanglewood


LENOX — The B-52s, New Wave's dance dignitaries, brought their percussive, quirky pop melodies to Tanglewood on Friday night, melding them almost seamlessly with their "backup band," the Boston Pops, before a crowd of about 8,000.

Friday night did not solely feature the band; it was more a celebration of 1980s music, with the B-52s as headliners.

Prior to the Bs set, conductor Keith Lockhart welcomed the audience "to the 1980s." The orchestra then presented several movie theme selections, all written and arranged by Lockhart's predecessor, John Williams.

These included "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" from the 1984 Olympics; and theme music from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial."

The orchestra then performed several hits from that decade, including a gorgeous version of U2s "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," as well as "Space Oddity" by David Bowie and Prince's "Purple Rain."

The latter number featured vocals by James "D-Train" Williams, a singer/songwriter who got his professional start in the 1980s. In addition, Pops guitarist Jonathan Finn covered the haunting finale solo of "Purple Rain" almost as well as it's author might have.

Lockhart and the group finished the first set with an "'80s sing along" that included "All Night Long," "Livin' On A Prayer," "Ghostbusters," "Jump," "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and "Walk Like an Egyptian." And yes, Lockhart and Williams reprised that stiff-armed walk performed by The Bangles in their stage shows and on the music video.

Following intermission, The B-52s took the stage, opening with their hit single "Planet Claire" from the band's self-titled debut.

That was a trip. The Pops put its strings and horns under the beat and pumped it up to another level.

From "Planet Claire," the band took flight with "Private Idaho," "Lava", "Dance This Mess Around" and "Roll," with the orchestra adding some distinct touches to each song.

The nine-song set highlights, in addition to "Planet Claire," included some nasty percussion on "Love in the Year 3000," the strings and horns in "Rock Lobster" and a pumped-up "Love Shack."

Just to show they hadn't lost a step, the band ushered Lockhart and the Pops from offstage for the encore, which included "Cosmic Thing," "Whammy Kiss" and the funkerama of "Mesopotamia," with a chorus of "Raspberry Beret" thrown in at the end.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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