Concert Review: B-52’s, OMD and Berlin at The Mann

40 years of dancing with the B-B2’s, OMD and Berlin

On Thursday, September 19, the B-52’s, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) and Berlin spent the evening at Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center for their 40th Anniversary Tour.  I’m glad that I was warned that Berlin, with the majority of their original line-up, would be kicking off the night at 7 p.m. sharp. The history of Berlin could fill a separate article. This was my first time seeing them, and I realized that was because they broke up in 1987. Some fans had announced that they first saw them at The Mann when they opened for the Thompson Twins 35 years ago! Lead singer and co-writer, Terri Nunn has toured over the years with the rights to the name, but this was magical seeing her with founder, co-writer, bass player and keyboardist John Crawford and synthesizer player David Diamond. Nunn defied time with her signature two-tone blonde and black hair, a bustier dress and spike boots. And at 58 she still had the voice that made her famous and could still belt out the lyrics!

Berlin, who became MTV darlings in the early 80’s, started their set with “No More Words” and “The Metro” complete with the original music videos in the background and “Masquerade.” Most people write off new music by older bands like this, but I’m thankful that I was told how strong their new album was. Transcendance, which was just released in August 2019 is worth the time and investment. They performed “I Want You” and the title track which was inspired by Nunn’s mother’s recent death. Family photos and videos caused many in the crowd to tear up.

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A set from Berlin wouldn’t be complete without the rock anthem ballad from the movie Top Gun, “Take My Breath Away.” You couldn’t avoid that song in 1986.  Despite giving them international attention, it was that song that helped to contribute to the band’s break up. Nunn started the song a capella and then with the backing of the band, moved through the crowd. The 45-minute set wrapped up with the notorious “Sex (I’m a…)” compete with Crawford joining vocals and a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Nunn and Crawford may no longer be a couple, but their stage presence together is intense.

OMD was last in Philadelphia for a March 2018 performance at the Theater of the Living Arts. A snowstorm also hit Philly that day. The show went on but like me, many of the ticket holders did not attend due to the conditions. Lead singer, Andy McCluskey announced after “Enola Gay” from their second album, “Don’t be afraid of a group of middle- aged men from Liverpool.” Their brand of electronic music brought the crowd to their feet, so much so that we didn’t have to feel guilty if we blocked our neighbors behind us. And what would an OMD set be without “Secrets,” “Tesla Girls” and “(Forever) Live and Die”?  Just like a movie soundtrack song like “Take My Breath Away” may make me cringe, “If You Leave” from the movie, Pretty in Pink, makes me think of all things good in 1986. And that was complete with their still shots of Molly Ringwald from the movie. I can’t even begin to mention how  McCluskey held those notes at the end! “So in Love” and “Dreaming” were some of their other 80’s highlights. “Electricity” that they wrote back in 1976 and was included on their first album topped off their set.

It was only 9:30 p.m. by then, but many of us were so happy with what we heard so far, that we almost forgot that there was still the B-52’s. “Athens, Georgia, Born to Party” was illuminated on the stage.  I’m not sure how often I party with people in their 60’s and 70’s, but if I did, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider would be on the guest list.  At times, they lacked some energy, but how many of you can get out there and sing and dance for an hour and a half, at your much younger age?

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Pierson and Wilson danced the night away in their bouffant wigs looking and sounding much younger than their birth certificates. Pierson looked stunning in a striped sequin dress that I just learned was purchased at the local Rittenhouse Square boutique, Shop Sixty Five. And though Schneider wasn’t part of all of the songs, he has aged gracefully as well visually and vocally and can still hit that cow bell. “Private Idaho” from the 1980 Wild Planet album started the party for their 14 song set that also included “Mesopotamia” and “Party Out of Bounds.” It’s funny when you can describe the songs from the 1989 Cosmic Thing as the “newer” songs. But the 3 songs from that album, “Dead Beat Club,” “Roam” and “Love Shack” that led us to the encore were just that. Sadly, no ”Channel Z” in that lineup, but “Planet Claire” started the encore.

My first memory of the B-52’s was dancing to “Rock Lobster” as a 7th grader at a middle school dance in 1984, so I would have to say that the finale complete with Nunn and a local man in a lobster costume joining them on stage, was my highlight of their show for me, Even though the B-52’s headlined this concert, Berlin and OMD held their own much more than band openers.  I look forward to seeing them in the future for their own shows.

Photos: Pamela Biasi

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