There's nothing worse than an old, slow punk band.
Fortunately, that's far from what we got at Altar Bar on Sunday night.
X stepped out with "Hungry Wolf" and let the music go BANG, blowing through 25 songs in a blistering 75-minute set.
The veteran LA punk band, rolling (amazingly) with all four originals, is on a tour that has the band doing complete albums in select cities. Screw that. For its first show here in six years, we got the best of X, and it's one of the finest of the punk catalogs.
X did it proud once again with drummer DJ Bonebrake and guitarist Billy Zoom both living up to their billing and John Doe plowing along on bass while joining Exene Cervenka in the ragged/glorious give-and-take at the mike.
True to form, the physical Doe was dripping with sweat as the smiling, smirking Zoom (66!) didn't even break one while speeding through the rockabilly-style solos on his silver metalflake guitar -- never looking at this fingers, never missing a note. He's one of the cleanest, most effortless and yet most furious guitarists you'll ever see.
Meanwhile, X's songs of lust and desperate love may have seemed a little out of step in the punk era, but they were crafted to hold up over the ages. Songs like "World's A Mess, It's in My Kiss," "Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not," "Motel Room in My Bed" and
"Because I Do" are as compelling now as they were 30 years ago.
Exene, in a black granny dress with ragged lace and multi-colored hair still flying everywhere, has lost some range and force over the years, but it was always more about her passion and poetics than how pretty she sang. She hasn't lost that. And she was unusually playful with the crowd, even asking to borrow someone's Pirates cap late in the show for an unlikely photo op.
As always, X finished the set like a train going off the tracks with a run that included "We're Desperate," "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene" and the Doors' "Soul Kitchen" before returning with a four-song encore that screeched to a breathless finish with "Devil Doll."
Earlier in the evening I had been talking to someone in a long-running Pittsburgh pop-punk band about the Four Chord Festival down the street. He said he'd never heard of X. John Doe's absolutely right when he says this rare, surviving '70s/'80s punk band does not get the attention it deserves. Do yourself a favor and check out X while they're still playing like they're desperate.
X Set List
The Hungry Wolf
Beyond and Back
We're Having Much More Fun
Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not
Sex and Dying in High Society
How I (Learned My Lesson)
It's Who You Know
World's A Mess, It's in My Kiss
The Unheard Music
When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch
I'm Coming Over
Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
Motel Room In My Bed
The New World
Some Other Time
Because I Do