X: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

The big, sad news out of Camp X last week -- the great Los Angeles punkabilly band X, that is -- was that singer Exene Cervenka, 53, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. But there was neither sign nor mention of infirmity at the quartet's typically rocket-powered set at the 9:30 club Friday night, and not a lot of other chithat besides. The seminal foursome played just as they always have, and as every punk band should: Like they've got someplace else to be, five minutes ago.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

But where many of their imitators and acolytes are all abrasive crank, X's velocity has never come at the expense of melody or form. They're the Muhammad Ali of punk acts -- strong, sure, but it's their speed, grace, and yes, quotability that makes them lethal and lovable. The explosive crunch of Billy Zoom's surf guitar. The whipcrack precision of DJ Bonebrake's drums. The hypnotic vocal interplay of singers Cervenka and John Doe, wherein he takes the high road and she takes the low -- it all stirs into something as unique, fierce, funny, and hard to resist now as it must have been back when they dropped their superb debut LP, "Los Angeles."

In 1980.

Yeah, so there's that. Though Cervenka and Doe both have solo careers, and X's country-and-western alter ego the Knitters put a record out in 2005, the last year X released a set of new songs, Guns N' Roses had an album out, too. No, not "Chinese Democracy." It was 1993, savvy? The year of "In Utero." The year of "Enter the Wu Tang." The year of "Exile in Guyville." A long time ago.

The hook for fans on this time was that they got to choose the set list by voting for their favorite tunes on the band's website. Thus the show was even more dominated by X's unimpeachable first four albums circa 1980-3 than it's been on X's prior 21st century outings.

A problem? Not in the least. The dryness-in-face-of-bedlam sensibility of numbers like "The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss" and "White Girl" has aged just fine. And though the members of X may now be touring for a living, they're still playing for their lives.

-- CHRIS KLIMEK

By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 7, 2009; 3:10 PM ET Live Last Night
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There is no better feeling for a music fan than seeing a favorite band deliver. The band giving their fans what they came to see and more. Exene must have been a Pony Express rider in another life, ignoring MS like a discarded Ripple bottle. Anyone can lie around and wish for the good old days. X with Exene are living them, knowing it doesn't get any better than this. Thanks for the report Chris. I love punk.......I mean real punk. You know the punk I mean. Not the XYZ punk but the X in X-ray punk.

Johnny Transistor,
June 7, 2009

Posted by: JohnnyTransistor | June 7, 2009 3:48 PM

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