X, live in Los Angeles, has such a satisfying ring to it after tonight‘s show. While some might say after nearly 30 years as a band they have no business being on stage, X came to the House of Blues and removed any doubts that they can still pack a punch as hard as any...at least harder than many I’ve seen over the years.
I got in just as the Johns were finishing the last song of their set. It was a packed house and people seemed to be in a great mood. I noticed I had to be one of the younger ones there as most in the crowd were middle-aged folks. But this was to be expected, as the members in X have to be pushing 50. But whatever differences (age or otherwise) any of us had, we were all there to settle in for a night with one of L.A.’s all-time greatest.
Exene Cervenka, John Doe, D.J. Bonebreak, and Billy Zoom took the stage to a big applause and jumped right into the classic “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You‘re Not” off their incredible Los Angeles record. The crowd went crazy and almost on cue, a handful of beefed up, drunk guys started shoving each other around. Good times. I can only describe the next hour and change as pure and total enjoyment and nothing less. The X you hear on record moves you, but the X you hear live almost physically assaults you, and it wasn’t the jerks in the pit. From the rhythmic stomp of “The Unheard Music” and “Blue Spark” to the punk fury of “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” and “We’re Desperate,” to the galloping kick of “Motel Room in My Bed,” the band was nothing short of on fire.
Having been together for so long, you could tell the band has developed a special chemistry by the way they play off each other and laugh and joke around on stage. Guitarist Billy Zoom, with a smile planted on his face the whole set, carried out the rockabilly/punk rock riffs almost effortlessly. In contrast to Zoom’s more laid-back demeanor, John Doe seemed to play with an urgency and passion surpassing most guys half his age. The guy was just raging on the bass while equally impressing with his great soulful voice. Drummer D.J. Bonebreak didn’t miss a beat the whole night and is as solid as they come. And of course Exene, front and center, was just singing her heart out while having a blast on stage. Exene and her self-proclaimed soulmate John Doe had their dueling vocal harmonies soaring all night, highlighted by their amped up cover of the Doors “Soul Kitchen.”
The dynamic between the band and the audience was noticeable. As the crowd up front were dancing and going crazy, the band seemed to feed off the energy and be playing even harder. And after breaking into the quintessential X song “Los Angeles,” everybody in that room had to have been screaming at the top of their lungs. I know I was. Unquestionably, the highlight for me was “Nausea.” I thought Exene really captured the moody, dark tenor of the song while the rest of the guys did an excellent job as well. They finished with a fantastic version of “The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss,“ although I thought this was the only song of the night where the mix was a little off. Or maybe it was just me going deaf after getting the equivalent of audio pummeling the whole night.
One thing from the show I missed was the richness of the organ that could’ve added another dimension to songs like “The World's a Mess…” and “The Unheard Music.” But what do I know, this was my first X show, so maybe they haven’t included it in their set for some time. One thing from the show I’m not going to miss is people getting violent, especially when it comes from men fighting women. Talk about ruining the good vibes; I know it shouldn’t be surprising, but it still sucks when it happens.
I have to say the appeal of X couldn’t be made more apparent than tonight. Talented songwriters, fine musicians (their side projects the Knitters, John Doe solo, Original Sinners are a testament to that) with a wealth of experience, and most importantly, the ability to translate that before a live audience. And tonight, X, live in Los Angeles, delivered in spades.
- Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You‘re Not
- Johnny Hit and Run Pauline
- Beyond and Back
- Sex and Dying in High Society
- Blue Spark
- I’m Coming Over
- The Hungry Wolf
- Los Angeles
- The New World
- We’re Desperate
- Riding With Mary
- Motel Room in My Bed
- Because I Do
- The Unheard Music
- Devil Doll
- White Girl
- In This House That I Call Home
- Soul Kitchen
- The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss