The B-52s setlist

1. Private Idaho

2. Mesopotamia

3. Give Me Back My Man

4. Channel Z

5. Funplex

6. Deadbeat Club

7. 52 Girls

8. Roam

9. Party Out of Bounds

10. Cosmic Thing

11. Dance This Mess Around

12. Love Shack (with Lowrider)

13. Planet Claire

14. Rock Lobster


1. Enola Gay

2. Secret

3. Tesla Girls

4. History of Modern (Part 1)

5. (Forever) Live and Die

6. If You Leave

7. Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)

8. Talking Loud & Clear

9. So in Love

10. Dreaming

11. Locomotion

12. Electricity


1. No More Words

2. The Metro

3. Masquerade

4. I Want You

5. Take My Breath Away

6. Transcendence

7. Sex (I’m A …)

That sound you may have heard wafting from the Old Mill District on Saturday night wasn’t a catfish, or a sea robin, narwhal or even a bikini whale.

It was the sound of avant-garde new wave/punk group The B-52s movin’, groovin’ and generally turning the Les Schwab Amphitheater into its love shack for the evening, or its own private Idaho, whichever you prefer. The audience of about 3,700 got to hear those classics plus plenty more during the group’s roughly 80-minute headlining set, which was part of its ongoing, multi-year 40th-anniversary tour.

In the 2010s, The B-52s are lead vocalists Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, plus a muscular backing band that helped punch up the band’s ’70s and ’80s hits, bringing them sonically into the 21st century. Drummer and guitarist Keith Strickland retired from the road in the early 2010s, while founding guitarist Ricky Wilson died from complications due to AIDS in 1985, nearly breaking up the band.

But the group soldiered on largely thanks to its 1989 comeback album “Cosmic Thing,” which featured the band’s biggest hit, “Love Shack.” The set list reflected the album’s significance to the group’s story, with five of the 14 songs played coming from the record.

The group started with some early classics, though, including the aforementioned “Private Idaho” to kick things off on an energetic note at around 8:45 p.m. The B-52s have always had a specific visual flair, and that was apparent right away as Schneider, Pierson and Wilson took the stage while the band played (Wilson’s black-and-green bodysuit complete with spiked shoulder pads was particularly eye-popping). The crowd got a little taste of the weirdness to come with the videos displayed on screen before the band took the stage, including an effective mash-up, probably via YouTube, of KISS’ “Saturday Night” with “Rock Lobster.”

The group stuck firmly to its hits throughout the evening (some might say too firmly, given that this was a 40th-anniversary show and prime time to dig out the deep cuts). But what the set lacked in surprises, it made up for in exuberance and sheer fun. The three principal members still seem to have the wild-eyed energy of their younger years, dancing through songs such as “Mesopotamia” and “Channel Z.”

Vocally, Wilson and Pierson haven’t lost much luster either, as they amply displayed during a three-song block in the middle of the show. “Deadbeat Club” and “Roam,” both from “Cosmic Thing,” came the closest to tender moments you’re likely to find at a B-52s show, while the jumpy “52 Girls,” given some hard-rock muscle by bassist Tracy Wormworth, got the crowd moving. (Schneider’s trademark deadpan was also on point, in case you were wondering.)

Naturally, the show built to the band’s two biggest hits. “Love Shack” featured a brief segue into “Lowrider,” with Schneider lowering his voice several octaves to deliver the song’s chorus before swinging back into the “bang, bang, bang” coda with Wilson and Pierson. Following a romp through “Planet Claire,” the group served up some “Rock Lobster,” complete with the list of improvised sea creatures punctuated by Wilson and Pierson’s by now legendary Yoko Ono squeals. Schneider offered some love to the crowd before departing the stage: “They say, ‘Keep Portland weird,’ but I say keep Bend as fabulous as you are.”

Openers Berlin and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (better known as OMD) took the crowd back to the ’80s to kick off the show. Berlin, which just released “Transcendence,” its first album since 2013, hit first with a short-and-sweet set highlighted, of course, by “Take My Breath Away.” Lead singer Terri Nunn climbed down into the audience as she belted out the song, as people stood in their seats to get a better view. (Those seats didn’t see much use throughout the night — who actually sits through songs like “Love Shack,” anyway?)

OMD played longer, perhaps slightly overstaying its welcome, but also touched on its hits including “If You Leave” and a punchy version of “Electricity” to close out the set. Vocalist/bassist Andy McCluskey cracked wise between songs, keeping the mood fast and loose — he introduced the band by stating that they “came to kick your ass with synthesizers,” which ended up not far from the truth. The crowd got rained on for a few songs in the band’s set, but the thunder and lightning from earlier in the day held off.

— Reporter: 541-617-7814,