The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Triple Rock, 10/22/12

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Triple Rock, 10/22/12
Photo By Darin Kamnetz

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
With Bloodshot Bill
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
October 22, 2012

Despite the fact that it was a Monday night, both the sold-out crowd that packed into the Triple Rock and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion themselves were in a decidedly festive and fiery mood. The fans were obviously thrilled to see the legendary JSBX play their first Minneapolis show since 2004, and the band were clearly in a celebratory mood due to it being Judah Bauer's birthday. All of that added revelry, combined with the Blues Explosion's potent new batch of tunes from Meat + Bone, added up to a rousing, untamed 70-minute set that proved that there isn't any rust forming on the illustrious New York City trio.

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The set started with the band already in high gear on a breathless run through of "Sweet 'n' Sour" that smoothly blended into their explosive new single, "Black Mold," which got the boisterous crowd moving. A raucous take on the classic Orange track, "Dang," fully ignited the show and the crowd, with Bauer playing harmonica while Spencer and drummer Russell Simins kept the track's rhythm and riffs coming full tilt.

Always the gentleman, Spencer then addressed the crowd warmly for the first of many times during the set, "Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Blues Explosion show!" Another blistering new song, "Bag Of Bones" quickly followed, but it was an absolutely ripping cover of the Beastie Boys' "She's On It" which proved to be one of the clear highlights of the breakneck set. The band has forged a well-earned chemistry and familiarity with each other over their 20+ years together, and that easy rapport fueled their live show, with songs and tempos changing on a dime based on a look or a nod from one member to another.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Triple Rock, 10/22/12
Photo By Darin Kamnetz

Simins creates one hell of a racket behind his spare drum kit, holding down their mighty rhythm while Bauer and Spencer rained down one sick riff after another during "Mars, Arizona" and "Strange Baby." Spencer (who recently revealed on Twitter that his customary black pants aren't leather, they are rubberized denim with leather trim) then decided to playfully tease and agitate the audience just a bit by saying, "A lot of people told us 'Don't go up to Minnesota.' But we had a band meeting and had a vote. That's right, election time. And here we are for you, the Blues Explosion!"

He then lead the crowd through a soul clap while the rest of the band was generating a filthy version of "Soul Typecast" behind him. But it proved to be just a tease, as the band proceeded to tear into snippets of five songs over the next few whirlwind minutes, causing this reviewer to give up any hope of keeping a setlist together.

From then on, it was a blur of crushing riffs and unrelenting swing, as the band and the crowd truly worked up a sweat. A gritty and raw rendition of 'Greyhound' was a clear standout, as Spencer manipulated his vocals with the use of a theremin at the back of the stage, playing mad sonic scientist with the texture of the track while the rest of the group ground out an aggressive melody behind him. The main set, which seemed to be over in a flash, ended with a thunderous version of "Bellbottoms" which found Spencer jumping into the crowd as the tension of the song built, before he got back on stage to lead the crowd through a "Bellbottoms" cheer where he spelled out the word while the rhythm gradually picked up and the song truly took off.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Triple Rock, 10/22/12
Photo By Darin Kamnetz

They made us wait a bit for the encore, which allowed everyone a moment to catch their collective breath, before JSBX took to the stage again and opened the encore with a couple fervid new songs, "Ice Cream Killer" and "Black Thoughts." But "Sweat" really lit a fuse on the encore, as everyone got swept up in the spirit of the song. At that point, Spencer let it be known that it was Bauer's birthday, leading us all in a "Hip Hip Hooray" cheer for the birthday boy, before Jon said "I think Judah's got something to say." At which point Bauer took over on vocals for an incendiary take on the Now I Got Worry classic "Fuck Shit Up."

The set was truly on fire at this point, and a forceful and funky rendition of "Blues Explosion Attack" only added to the flames. A feisty take on "Get Your Pants Off" closed out the show, leaving us all spent but smiling from ear to ear after that spirited set. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion served notice to us all that, despite the lengthy layoff, the band is just as formidable as ever, and the Blues is indeed still Number 1.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I fell under the powerful spell of JSBX when I first heard Orange back in college, and I've been blissfully under it ever since.

The Crowd: Packed and in a party mood, as they should have been for the Blues Explosion.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Jon still looks as hot as ever." "How could he not be hot in those pants?"

Random Notebook Dump: The only downside to the show was that they were sold out of Meat + Bone on vinyl.

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