Best of the “OLD” Performances -2010


I am ruing the day a decade or so from now when T.J. Lubinsky appears on PBS to shill his new concert video and 6 CD/DVD set “Johnny Lydon presents Punk Rewind.” Although, I suppose if someone could get The Jam to re-form for anyone’s benefit it would be worth all the shtick. I’m not sure if I can take a whole bunch of aged punks standing on a stage with a recruited back-up band, backing vocalists, but worse, a bunch of old folks sitting in their auditorium chairs nodding their heads slowly but approvingly to “Orgasm Addict,” or “Six Pack”.

While several of the subjects below (not in any particular order) are already over 60 years of age, I am thankful that we are lucky enough to still have these great pre-punks, punks and post-punks around. Most of these bands get points for longevity alone, but unlike many other are not just mailing it in.

MISSION OF BURMA (Subterranean, Double Door, Wicker Park Music Festival)

RELENTLESS and INVENTIVE. Since MOB has been around for 31 years, they qualify as old. But since they only reformed in 2002 and have created new challenging, powerful and noisy music that really makes them a modern band and qualifies them for high ranking in both the “new” and “old” categories. Either way you want to look at them, the combination of pounding drums, noise loops, hyperbolic bass leads and short guitar bullets running from chain saws to power chords is unmatched today. Their music contains the tension of an approaching storm and overpowers when it hits.  If you get the chance do not fail.

STEVE WYNN AND THE MIRACLE 3 (Lakeside Lounge)

Not the casino developer, Steve started playing with The Dream Syndicate, who admittedly, I did not like as much in the early 80’s. Today though he plays some of the strongest, straight ahead rock and roll around and the Miracle 3 is a very tight band. Just hearing them do “Amphetamine” live is a great treat especially if you love searing and chiming guitars and don’t think you’ll get to see “Heroin” live soon. You can hear his performance from his 50th birthday party at the Lakeside Lounge on his web site at http://www.stevewynn.net.

PSYCHEDELIC FURS (Metro)

There is elegiac magic to Richard Butler, not the pilloried imitation of christ, but a rich embrace–grace replacing angst. The Furs have come a long way from the pre-Pretty in Pink re-make spit and venom, which turned transformed the hate of “We Love You” to the love of “The Ghost in You”, so that the audience is no longer comprised of fools – but that was oh so long ago, and you are forgiven .

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED (House of Blues)

Johnny Lydon may be playing the fool or rogue even more than ever but the atonality that seemed so repulsive in Chant and Albatross has turned into happy dance music—amazing. And that Lu Edmonds! Usually, limited to a background role in the Mekons, the noise and melody he can conjure from multiple instruments, especially the three-stringed saz. Some of the songs, particularly and disappointingly Public Image seemed a bit Vegas-y.

 ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO and The Sensitive Boys (outdoors behind Jo’s Coffee, Lincoln Hall)

Alejandro continues to deliver anthemic, uplifting and sometimes haunting, roots rocking, rocking and accessible musings, ballads and even rants on love, friendship, loss (of love and friendship), and maybe some related subjects but I can’t think of any at the moment. His interplay with guitar virtuoso David Pulkingham on guitar live is hard to replicate—though I still love to hear them play with violin and cello as well.

NEW YORK DOLLS (Double Door). I have to admit that I was never a big David Johanson fan, but seeing him now you can tell he is/was the missing link between Mick Jagger and Joey Ramone—so he gets a lot of points for that. The combination of power rhythm and blues, garage rock an attitude that helped get punk is thankfully still present.

RAY DAVIES (Riviera, La Zona Rosa)

While it’s a shame he and Dave can’t get their shit together to do a definitive Kinks tour, at least Ray realized that many of the Kinks songs just sound that much better with a full band (the 88’s), which also allows Ray to preen around the stage as is (or he make it appear to be) his wont. Ray’s songbook is immense, and even when he was in his 20’s he wrote beautiful, melancholy, reflective songs (can’t beat Waterloo Sunset) and his love song to London/his sister/Chrissie Hynde Postcards From London is his prettiest song in decades. He is such a perfectionist, though that his entire show in Austin, including remarks was virtually identical to his Chicago show—though he claimed to “throw away the set list”.

IGGY AND THE STOOGES (Riviera).

Iggy is one of the world’s modern miracles. How so much energy can be packed into that 5 7 (or so he says) 63 year old body is beyond me. I think I liked the Stooges a bit better with the late Ron Asheton playing his Detroit power groove on guitar than James Williamson, but the Stooges still lay down sufficient background energy for Iggy to stalk, confront and wriggle.

FLESHTONES (Bottom Lounge) A quote from a friend in 1981 “Finest rock and roll band around by far. These guys are in a 67-68 time warp. The new Yardbirds.” That still holds today, though Peter Zeremba may have lost a step and the band relies a little more on its showier elements, like doing pushups and their now trademark “Powerstance”. But it is hard to have more fun than bopping around to their pure, unfiltered and unfuzzed garage sound.

Wishes for 2011: Gang of Four (yes!), Roxy Music (looking very likely), Green on Red (Pitchfork?, please), Television (TNK? please)

Next week (hopefully) the best of the new performances. Japandroids, Grand Trine, Dearhunter, Right Ons and more.

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