James Williamson and friends/ Cheetah Chrome - Live in Los Angeles (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

James Williamson and friends / Cheetah Chrome

Live in Los Angeles (2015)

live show

On January 16, 2015, I went to The Bootleg HiFi Theater to see a special, one-time performance where James Williamson, guitarist for The Stooges, performed his new album Re-Licked with the artists that sang on the album.

The opener was a Northern California band called The Richmond Sluts. They had a 70s, garage rock sound with a bit of modern rock thrown in, too. They were like a modern-day Doors. The Richmond Sluts relied especially heavily on guitars, but even more so on the electric organ/keyboard. Even the lead singer wore a leather vest over his white collared shit and had a hairstyle that was something straight out of a 70s televised musical performance. The most interesting part of their set when they covered “I Don’t Need No Doctor” by Ray Charles where they added a lot more guitar distortion and speed to the song.

Up next was Cheetah Chrome featuring The Street Walkin’ Cheetahs. Cheetah Chrome, of course, of the Dead Boys, handled lead guitars and vocals and could really shred on his guitar. The band was pretty much a pure rock band. Their sound may have touched a little bit on an early heavy metal side, too. I got an early Black Sabbath vibe from them overall. But though they could rock fast and loud tunes, the band wasn’t afraid to throw in a few slow ballads during their set.

Finally, James Williamson got on the stage. The crowd went wild. He didn't say a word into the mic. Instead, he just got started. He and the rest of the band began to play the intro to the first song (his set list was the exact track listing of his album) “Head on the Curve” and right when the vocal parts begin Jello Biafra bursts on to the stage and begins singing. Jello was jumping and flailing his arms and making those facial expressions only he could pull off. It’s this moment that’s one of the main reasons I gave this show a great rating. Where else are you going to see Jello Biafra sing while legendary proto-punk artist James Williamson is playing guitar along with him? It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen!

Each time a new artist came up on stage to sing the next song, they weren’t announced so it was a little hard to determine who was which artist, but ultimately I was able to figure it out. Other highlights of the night were when blues singer, Carlyn Wonderland, sang the super dark song “Open Up and Bleed” and when Allison Mossart of The Kills and Jesse Mallin (who I had just seen perform a couple days before perform at Side One Dummy Records a couple days before) share vocals on James’ song “Wild Love.” One of the biggest surprises was when Lisa Kekualah of The Bellrays took the stage for “I Got a Right” and later “Heavy Liquid.” She had the best and most professional soul/R&B sounding voice I had heard live in a long time. She could hit really high notes flawlessly.

The two encore songs were exceptionally amazing to witness. After James Williamson played an extra-long, but great guitar solo while playing the song “Wet My Bed” with The Richmond Sluts, James and his band got back on stage and started playing The Stooges’ classic song “Search and Destroy” and who got on stage to sing? It was Cheetah Chrome, Jesse Malin, and Jello Biafra. Each of the singers took turns singing the lyrics, but when Jello started singing my mind was officially blown.

For the last song of the night Lisa Kekualah was brought back on stage to sing The Kingsmen song “Louie, Louie” and after a few verses they brought every artist that performed back on stage to sing as a grand finale. It was the best possible way to end the show.

I guess I had always taken Iggy, James Williamson, and the rest of The Stooges for granted a bit. I didn’t fully realize how important they were until I saw this show and afterwards when Jello said this to me: “If there were no Stooges, there would have been no Dead Kennedys.”