X at the Cabooze, 10/6/11
October 6, 2011
Last night's show at the Cabooze took a slightly unusual approach to the typical concert routine. There were no openers this time around, just X. And, also, X.
Before the legendary L.A. punk rockers took the stage to play their debut album, Los Angeles, in its entirety, they screened a documentary about themselves that had been released a full 25 years ago, called The Unheard Music. It created an interesting juxtaposition of what it's like to see aging rock stars play the songs they wrote decades ago, and showed just how much the band has changed since their youthful heyday tearing up the clubs of Southern California.
For that very reason, it can be difficult to know what to expect from a show like this, beyond simply nostalgia. After all, given the high energy of X's music, you couldn't expect them to thrash around like they once would have done--and indeed, there was probably an extra edge of inspired desperation missing from the evening. But all in all, it seems they've lost little of their edge.
Seeing Exene Cervenka and John Doe onstage, in particular, just moments after having seen them on film, was striking. Sure, they looked different, and of course older. The pair in the film were portraits of the ultimate bohemians, Cervenka with long, wild hair and thrift store dresses, Doe with striking brown eyes and a gap-toothed grin. In person, Cervenka's hair was short and she wore a black slip, while it was Doe's furrowed brow and cowboy shirt that stood out most.
It was perhaps not surprising of this band, though, to highlight the difference in years, for such a gesture is typical of artistic sensibility. And above all, they threw themselves into the songs just the same, Cervenka twirling around stage, head tossed back and eyes closed, just like in the film, as though she were channeling the same muse. Their voices were largely intact, too, although their higher registers were missing a bit, which was most apparent in their once elegantly ragged harmonies.
Of course, playing any of X's albums all the way through only takes about a half-hour, but once the band had gotten through Los Angeles front to back, they kept playing for at least twice as long afterward. If anything, things only picked up afterward: There were songs from all across the catalog, from "Once Over Twice" to "The New World," and an acoustic "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" during the encore. Perhaps the only thing along the way that would once have seemed out of place was Cervenka encouraging the audience to participate in Occupy MN.
If the two band leaders inevitably took the spotlight, then in his own way guitarist Billy Zoom nearly stole the show with his eccentric presence. Wearing a bowling shirt and guitar strap with his name inscribed on it, he stood grinning and posing for cameras on the corner of the stage, making large, somewhat creepy eyes at the audience members. He ripped off guitar solos without appearing to even pay attention, then walked around snapping photos of the crowd before the encore.
The most unusual thing? Zoom acted exactly the same in the film, all those years ago. Fortunately, some things never change.
Critic's Bias: Long after I'd accrued thousands upon thousands of songs in my iTunes catalog, it was a joy to discover this band.
The Crowd: They were like me, once upon a time. And without the internet, no less.
Overheard in the Crowd: I only heard baseball talk. Go Tigers! Boo Yankees!
Random Notebook Dump: There were only illegible scribbles. Honestly.
Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline
Sex and Dying in High Society
The World's a Mess; It's in My Kiss
When You Know
Beyond and Back
I'm Coming Over
House I Call Home
The New World
Once Over Twice
Because I Do
Back to the Base
I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
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