Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

X @ Black Cat (8/20/14)

“Loud as fuck!” exclaimed John Doe during X’s show at Black Cat on August 20. Though more a commentary about the venue’s sound system, to a certain extent his words also served to encapsulate everything that is to be expected from punk rock: anger, aggression, energy. Yet X has always been cleverer than your standard punk band, with their scything lyrics and unique fusion of punk and rockabilly obviating the need for extreme volume on which some of their contemporaries relied. These days, while the quality of X’s music still comes across after decades of playing, a little extra volume seems a good thing, keeping the band from being lulled into a sense of complacency and thereby allowing them to maintain the expected level of energy at their shows.

After reforming their original lineup in the mid-90’s, X, like most reunited groups, have stuck to a standard touring formula. In their case, this means playing material from their first four albums only, so personal favorites like “All or Nothing” and “4th of July” would not be seeing the light of day. Sadly, other personal favorites that do fit the first four album requirement, like “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” and “We’re Desperate,” also failed to crack the set list. That being said, the show did have its share of highlights: “In This House That I Call Home” remains one of the best live songs in their (or any band’s) repertoire, while “Los Angeles” got a typically head-banging, fist-pumping response.

Nearly 40 years into their musical partnership, Exene and John Doe still harmonize beautifully, X at Black Catparticularly on standouts like “White Girl” and “Motel Room in My Bed.” Meanwhile, Billy Zoom remains both an exquisite guitar player and a complete ham, grinning and posing with his guitar for every smart phone pointed his direction. The rhythm section of Doe and DJ Bonebreak did their maniacal best to energize to the band’s songs, while Exene seems to have regained her presence as punk’s leading chanteuse, having battled through a case of Multiple Sclerosis. In spite of punk rock’s tendency to age poorly, the band’s tight performance gave every indication that X is more determined than ever to continue playing as long as they can, whatever it takes.

In marked contrast to X, openers Not in the Face relied on manic stage behavior as their shtick, in particular David Crosby lookalike Michael Anthony Gibson on lead guitar, who spent the set throwing out every rock star move in the book (wild solos, playing on the floor, going into the crowd). Sadly, all of his histrionics failed to impress the crowd. Maybe they should have just turned up the volume instead.

Set List:

  1. The Hungry Wolf
  2. Beyond and Back
  3. White Girl
  4. We’re Having Much More Fun
  5. Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not
  6. Sex and Dying in High Society
  7. How I (Learned My Lesson)
  8. It’s Who You Know
  9. The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss
  10. Los Angeles
  11. The Unheard Music
  12. Year 1
  13. When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch
  14. Breathless (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)
  15. In This House That I Call Home
  16. I’m Coming Over
  17. Poor Girl
  18. Nausea
  19. Sugarlight
  20. Motel Room in My Bed
  21. Soul Kitchen (The Doors cover)

Encore:

  1. The New World
  2. Some Other Time
  3. Because I Do
  4. Devil Doll
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