The B-52’s might be on tour to celebrate their 25th anniversary (and the Rhino anthology “Nude on the Moon”), but when they took the stage at the House of Blues — looking not all that different from when they took New York by storm in 1977 — there wasn’t the shock of the old that often keeps company with bands living off their catalog.
But then, the B-52’s have always been a little out of time. Playing the same circuit as the Ramones, Talking Heads and Television, with their towering hairdos and thrift-shop fashions, the B-52’s were an art student’s idea of a novelty act, a breezy sharkskin island in a sea of black leather. Taking the 1960s, Warholian trash-is-art aesthetic to its logical (which in this case means extreme) conclusion, they used cheesy toy keyboards and decidedly un-hip Mosrite guitars to perform exuberantly campy tunes such as “Rock Lobster.” But the B-52’s invented their own little sonic world, and today they remain a bubbly, propulsively danceable live act.
High-power fans keep the band looking heroically windswept, and Kate Wilson still gives “Dance This Mess Around” and “Give Me Back My Man” their emotional wallop. Watching Fred Schneider is a bit like seeing Buster Keaton in “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” or “Beach Blanket Bingo”: His body still moves in that limber, rakish manner, but his eyes have a faraway glazed look and he occasionally shrugs his shoulders as if to say, “Well, it’s a living.”
To keep things fresh for themselves, they occasionally mess with a familiar song. The intros to “Good Stuff” and “Love Shack” are changed slightly, different beats accented or deconstructed, respectively, before falling into their familiar rhythms. But they never stray too far. If the B-52’s have always had an ironic appreciation of the past, they’re smart enough to know that in order to work, nostalgia has to be what it used to be.
Opening act Nancy Sinatra showed just how tough the headliner’s job is. With her teased blonde hair, silver boots and mini-skirt, Sinatra would not have looked out of place onstage with the B-52’s. But she is trying to re-create herself as a singer in the style of Dusty Springfield, and her performance felt phoned in, only finding its footing on the hits “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (marred by an unnecessary bass solo) and her Bond theme “You Only Live Twice.”