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[Live Review] The B-52’s and Squeeze at the Pavilion

The last time they each played the Bank of America Pavilion, the B-52's headlined for the Go-Go's and Squeeze opened for Cheap Trick. Wednesday night, July 11, the B-52's opened for Squeeze. Which seemed odd - back in the day, Squeeze were the kind of club band that played the Paradise. Would a B-52's crowd stick around? They did. Must be some kind of overlap.

Well, why not, they both came out of the same late-'70s/early-'80s post-punk era. But you could say that there the similarities end. Each band had a few new songs, but each band got the crowd dancing and singing along to a rich back catalogue.

The B-52's were as raucous as I remembered from a couple of summers ago. Fred Schneider, resplendent in a strawberry-sherbert suit and shirt marched arhythmically back and forth across the stage, barking out lyrics and yelping in response to the high-harmony calls of Kate Pierson (fringed pumpkin mini-dress) and Cindy Wilson (orange halter-topped dress) while Keith Strickland (dark suit) banged out surf-punk guitar riffs. (The rhythm section of bassist Tracy Wormworth, drummer Sterling Campbell, and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Gordon kept things beautifully on course all night.

"This is a song about a stinking volcano - and of course sex," said Schneider, introducing "Lava." From the costumes to the dada lyrics, this band has always had an art-school vibe, but, as with "Lava," you can't say their songs aren't about something. At least not always. Has there ever been a better anthem of girl-group empowerment that "52 Girls"? (Pierson said she "learned the names of the 52 girls of the USA" as an undergrad at BU.)

The band sounded great, the mix a little rougher than the last time (I remember more of a pop to Cindy Wilson's bongos on "Planet Claire"), but these are quibbles. This band still know what a party gone out of bound is all about.

Squeeze by comparison are proper English gentlemen. For almost 90 minutes they rolled out one perfectly crafted pop song after another, with closely observed lyrics, music laced with ska and soul, and plenty of tough rock guitar. Glenn Tilbrook has adopted some alarming facial hair (a goatee that blew in the summer breeze like that of a real billie goat), but otherwise, he and songwriting partner Chris Difford (lyrics) were well comported book-ends - the former in light hair and suit, the latter dark and bespectacled.

But ah, those songs. There wasn't a clinker in the bunch, and several bona-fide hits (opener "Take Me, I'm Yours," soul-ringer "Tempted," fast-talking-blues-rap "Cool for Cats"). The melodies in some cases seemed downright miraculous (you could hardly blame Tilbrook for getting miffed that the crowd ignored his instructions by singing the chorus to "Tempted" rather than the wordless harmony - but you couldn't blame the crowd either). Wedded to these melodies are little story songs in rhyming verse - as rich as any in pop (Kinks, anyone?). If another rock songwriter talked about a tryst by the shore, you'd only hear about how he "maid Marian." Except that Difford has the presence of mind to take in the life around him as it's happening: "Two fat ladies window shop/something for the mantelpiece/In for bingo all the nines/A panda for sweet little niece." And of course, "Everybody wants a hat." A not inappropriate ditty for Boston Harbor on a summer night.

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