By the band’s own admission, “Under the Big Black Sun” — X’s first major-label release — was a bit of a departure.
“This record allowed us to do some different things, like play vibes,” Exene Cervenka told the roaring West Village crowd last night. DJ Bonebrake handled those duties.
It required more than a few instrument and tuning changes, in fact. The band also added a pair of musicians on guitar and organ.
“We’re not used to standing around and watching people plug into different amplifiers,” John Doe said, before jazz-trained Billy Zoom took a quick turn on sax for “Come Back to Me.”
The entire-album approach also requires playing songs live for the first time. It produced a couple of false starts on “Blue Spark” — before the band nailed it — along with a letter-perfect version “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts.”
After splitting in the late Nineties following nearly two decades of influential loudhardfast, the reunited X has only gotten tighter. Imagine speeding down a darkened street, taking sudden turns on two wheels, slowing down and then flooring it again, all without a dent or scratch. It’s the aural equivalent of an Ellroy novel.
They’ve also lost little of the piss and vinegar — the same of which could be said for plenty of greybeards who hooted and hollered throughout last night’s set, the pitch climbing with each song.
Billy (Tyson Kindell) Zoom is still all smiles, smooth fretboard slides and a pick stuck to his forehead. Don Bonebrake is still loose-limbed and lightning quick (“The Hungry Wolf” allowed him to open the night with a drum solo). John (Duchac) Doe works as hard as ever; his voice remains the band’s finest instrument.
Christine Cervenka still plays earth mother as cupie doll — twirling her skirt and herself, knocking back slugs from her long-neck brew, a little shimmy here, a little shake there, between wails.
The lyrics are highly personal and often dark. In the end, the impact is visceral, though.
Still, the intensity is tightly controlled (Even the five-minute set break seemed even shorter than planned).
What followed was impassioned, furious and at times fierce, launched by “Drunk in My Past” and continuing with, among others, “All of the Night” and “We’re Desperate” — a punk time-capsule, really.
The tempo down-shifted only once, for a sing-along, stomp-along cruise through the anthemic “…New World,” then careened to the ideal set-closer, “Soul Kitchen.”
It’s a measure of X’s rich catalog that so many encore choices were possible — among them, “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline,” “The World’s a Mess It’s in My Kiss,” “See How We Are” and personal fave “Burning House of Love.”
Still, “Bad Thoughts” and “Breathless” unleashed whatever inner punk had been dormant in the fist-pumping, pogo-ing crowd. X still makes the music go bang.
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