Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: X @ Irving Plaza

X @ Irving Plaza - September 30, 2011
Review: Anjelica LaFurno / Photo: Daniel Francis

I’ve always felt that New Yorkers and Californians share a mutual interest and fascination with one another’s culture, punk rock being an ideal representation of such an idea. Both the New York City and Los Angeles scene heavily defined the genre; coastal bands have been pitted against one another over the years, compared endlessly, as well as being enjoyed both collectively and equally. For two nights (Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1) New Yorkers were graced with the music and aura of legendary Los Angeles punk band X. Both shows were apart of X’s Los Angeles tour named after the band’s cutting-edge debut album, released 31 years ago.

I got the chance to catch Friday’s show as well as the band members in past and present form. The show consisted of not only Los Angeles being performed in its entirety but also began with a showing of the 1986 documentary X: The Unheard Music. This of course was a delight to devoted fans, though also appreciated by those new to the band’s music. The film provided a nice background in an intimate, candid sort of way and allowed a smooth transition into the raw intensity that is X’s catalogue of music. This mixture of past and present made clear X's staying power shall continue into the future just as much as the rest of the unknown will.

The moment “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not” began, the crowd quickly switched from conversational moviegoers to a pleasantly raucous unit. The audience seemed to build up anticipation waiting for the album’s title track to begin, while John Doe egged them on with a friendly suggestion: "Here’s a song for you!" During those nine great songs: beautiful harmonies were ever present, Billy Zoom animated guitar licks with his cheeky facial expressions instead of the outlandish body movements most guitarists opt for, DJ Bonebrake elicited infinite bass pedal power due to the crowd’s stomping their feet along with his big-band inspired beats, and of course Exene was, well, Exene. Somewhere Alison Mosshart bows down and prays to a Cervenka shrine.

The first song played after performing all of Los Angeles was “Beyond and Back” from the album Wild Gift right after Exene sang: “Shit! Oh baby, will there be beer in heaven?” John Doe pointed to the crowd and shouted as if it were a command to “shut up and smoke”, while Exene exuded a female Frankenstein look under a shower of green light as she tousled her hair with her fingers, and then whipped her head towards the microphone. The band dedicated the song “The New World” from the album More Fun in the New World to “everyone on Wall Street, the ones outside of the office anyway.” It would not be a Punk show if there weren’t at least one socially relevant remark. Shortly before the first encore John nudged Exene and smiled at her in a way only a former husband and wife can and began playing “Because I Do” from the 1982 album Under the Big Black Sun. The working dynamic and magnetism between the two was made obvious by their harmonies when singing, “What kind of fool am I? I am the married kind.”

For the first encore, songs from More Fun in the New World were played, like “Breathless” and an uncharacteristically pretty, acoustic version of “ I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”. It was after this first encore Billy Zoom coolly whipped out a digital camera, photographed the audience and caused a sort of happy pandemonium if you will. The crowd’s insistence for a second encore was marked by their staccato feet stomping, which rattled the venue.

It’s interesting how X has come relatively full circle (they’ll be joining Pearl Jam in an upcoming South American tour!) over the past 31 years. In X: The Unheard Music, during an interview Billy Zoom admits he was skeptical about the idea of a bass player dragging his poet girlfriend into the mix, at first not knowing Exene would be a very necessary part of the formula. Who would’ve thought 31 years later X would be celebrating an album so representative of their hometown Los Angeles in the city that never sleeps?


Check out some videos of X's performance below, as well as the setlist played on Friday night...

X - Irving Plaza - September 30, 2011
Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not
Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
Soul Kitchen
Los Angeles
Sex and Dying in High Society
The Unheard Music
The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss
It's Who You Know
Beyond & Back
I'm Coming Over
In This House That I Call Home
We're Desperate
Adult Books
The New World
The Once Over Twice
Because I Do
Back to the Base
Motel Room In My Bed
Devil Doll

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts (Acoustic)
True Love
Breathless (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)
The Hungry Wolf

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