(ST. LOUIS, MO) This reviewer’s first exposure to legendary California-based punk rockers X was with, of all things, the 1982 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.
No, I’m not making this up.
During the specifically-slotted wee hours of the morning, and after an awkward intro by sweater-clad disc jockey Casey Kasem, the quartet barreled through a rendition of their single, “Blue Spark,” from their first major-label release from Elektra Records, “Under the Big Black Sun.”
The churning, two-minute performance featured a super-charged John Doe handling the lead crooning while slapping bass, accompanying vocalist Exene Cervenka in a trance-like state, drummer D.J. Bonebreak propelling furious percussion and blonde-pompadoured lead guitarist Billy Zoom standing wide-legged and continuously sporting a smile that was equal parts charming and mischievous.
This insomniac was curiously wide-eyed for the combo from my parents’ sectional on Labor Day weekend 1982. Rightfully so.
Fast-forward 36 years from that moment and I’m watching X engage in their fifth decade of performing their high-octane catalog of punk, rockabilly and multi-corded fuzz with a Friday night stop at Delmar Hall.
Fans that have perpetually enjoyed their up-front, no-nonsense approach that was first launched in 1977 certainly weren’t disappointed in the band’s 80-minute performance.
In fact, it appeared that the hands of time stood still due to the overall passion, emotion and musicianship X displayed. At their second appearance at the U-City Loop venue since it opened under two years ago, the band’s set list was heavily influenced by songs stemming from their 1980 Slash Records’ debut, “Los Angeles,” and the next three releases that followed.
Sure, they might sport a few more grey hairs now, but the work ethic remains steadfastly intact as Doe sweats heavily in denim, Cervenka grooves while sporting skirts, Bonebrake hits the toms with the full-force of a twenty-year-old, and Zoom playfully strums whilst grinning as if to say, “I know something about your mother.”
If there was ever a band to make one feel young again, or at least to make one feel mighty for the moment, it would be X.
Launched by long-time staple “Beyond and Back,” early highlights included a rapid-rendered version of “Sugarlight,” an easily-recognizable cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless” and the one-two punch of “Some Other Time” and “Poor Girl.”
Then thirty minutes in, the band elected to showcase their overall musical IQ with a well-received run of “Come Back to Me” and “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” that featured Zoom’s solo on saxophone in the former and Bonebreak’s solo on xylophone in the latter.
The perpetual energy continued with a trifecta of “The World’s A Mess, It’s In My Kiss,” a heavy-thumping “Hungry Wolf” and a free-wheeling “I’m Coming Over.”
The final six songs of the band’s primary rotation, bracketed by the career-defining “Los Angeles” and concluded by their cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen,” also contained long-time staple “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not,” the prowling “Nausea,” and the frenetic dual attack of “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” and “Motel Room in My Bed.”
Game. Set. Match.
After Zoom’s last strum, the crowd immediately craved more and the band obliged after a very brief cool-off. A two-song encore ensued that started with “Because I Do” and finished with the chunka-chunk of “Devil Doll” that effectively put the capper on a solid night of work by the veteran musicians.
I was mesmerized by this band as an early teen. It’s comforting to see that this effect still holds true today for all the right reasons. X is an experience that needs to be witnessed when they steamroll to your town.
As a late-minute addition – and all for the better – St. Louis rock duo Bruiser Queen opened for X Friday night.
The talented tandem is a fixture to smaller venues in the bi-state area, so to see them get proper exposure at a venue with good sound, lighting and atmosphere was a feel-good moment for those that follow them.
Bruiser Queen did not waste opportunity as they crafted a very smart, nine-song, thirty minute set that showcased their groove-laden portfolio and hooked their newly-found audience by set’s end.
The band played songs from their latest release, “Heavy High,” that featured the solid “Sugar High” and “Have Fun” and also performed the well-received “On the Radio” for evening’s launch.
Guitarist/vocalist Morgan Nusbaum and drummer/vocalist Jason Potter are a treat from the onset and one wants to pull for them as they continue to position themselves as a front runner of St. Louis’ musical landscape.
The local duo will next be performing at The Firebird on September 15th. Tickets are still available here.
X AT DELMAR HALL – 8.31.18
1) Beyond & Back
2) In This House That I Call Home
3) Year 1
6) Some Other Time
7) Poor Girl
8) Come Back To Me
9) I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
10) The World’s A Mess, It’s In My Kiss
11) Hungry Wolf
12) I’m Coming Over
13) The Unheard Music
14) Dancing With Tears in My Eyes
15) Los Angeles
16) Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not
18) Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
19) Motel Room in My Bed
20) Soul Kitchen
21) Because I Do
22) Devil Doll