Black Flag has been my favorite band of all time for at least 5 years now - everything from their earliest singles to their last album I have adored and played over and over to my heart's content. So When I heard that Greg was gonna have a "First Four Years" reunion show I was stoked. Well, let's cut to the chase.
I got to the Palladium at around 5 pm after a stop and go traffic jam plagued ride from Ventura. I am the second person in line and I am immediately in conversation with a friendly older man and his young son. He tells me about how he'd seen every incarnation of Black Flag and that he'd seen the band play atleast 12 times. He went on to tell me that he used to watch the opening bands with Henry and that one day he offered Henry some coke and Henry refused with the reply "I'm a straight edge".
7 pm rolled around and the doors to the sold out show were finally opened. After a breif wait Mike V & The Rats took the stage like a hurricane. The playing was tight, fast and lean. Mike V himself has a great scream, although his presence on stage is erriely similar to the current way Henry Rollins uses himself. Anyway, they flew through a tight, damaging set. Songs I can remember- "Never Give In, Never Give Up", "Vendetta" and a great "fuck you Bush" song - I really need to get it on MP3.
Anyway, they leave stage and then 1208 came out and hit it. They were definitely not the right kind of band to open this show but survived nonetheless and managed to put in an above average effort. They played a couple new songs off their upcoming LP and a bunch of old ones as well. I remember "Lies That Lie" well. So, they leave stage to mild applause.
Now we are all psyched and ready for the mighty Black Flag to hit stage. So, Greg comes out, looking like he's 80 years old and ready to keel over and die. Dez had hair down to his waist and a beer gut so apparent that I could barely make out the Six Pack shirt he was wearing. But, looks have nothing to do with music, so this didn't bother me. They announced that they were first going to play the "My War" album in it's entirety with Mike V on vocals and an unnamed drummer. So they went at it. At first it sounded great, they began with a good Jam with Greg wigging out and getting his groove down and immediately went into the title track. Mike V. was doing a great job at vocals all the way up until side 2 of My War. While the band was playing tight throughout, Mike seemed to be reading the lyrics off a sheet on the ground, completely destroying any intensity and making the whole thing look amateur and silly. He ended up singing in the wrong spots because of this... it was just a mess.
But, the worst was yet to come, after Mike left, the band brought out the legendary Robo to replace the other drummer and Cel (Black Flag's last bassist) on bass. This looked promising, but the band slipped yet again. They sounded just really sloppy and unrehearsed. Dez wasn't getting the vocals in the right spot, nor was he singing with much anger or rage. Greg faltered a few times and a couple of the songs ended early and fell over due to the total lack of communication on the band's end. Robo, on the other hand, was fantastic, he hit every beat and was right on target.
It looked to me like the potentially amazing Greg wasn't really into this and didn't give it much determination. It's a real shame, by the end of the set I was praying that Rollins could come out and save the whole thing from being a complete disaster, but no luck in sight. Take my word for it, despite it's good cause and once amazing musicians, Keith, Rollins, and Chuck were wise to stay away from this. I'm not cutting down Greg, his guitar playing was, overall, frenetic and amazing - things just didn't click like I would have hoped. Oh well, it was worth the drive just to see Mike V & the Rats and hear some of Greg's classic guitar.