The seminal '80s punk band X is playing 4 nights at the City Winery in New York as well as touring other major cities. I had the good fortune of being in town and catching the opening night during which they played their debut album "Los Angeles" in its entirety. Punk rock being what it is, that's a fairly short album, so they came back for another full set of songs from later periods of their career and then a final encore.
While I was a huge fan of late '70s / early '80s punk and new wave from New York and the UK, I never really got into the LA bands of that era. When I did listen to some of the bands over the years, the production always felt a bit too raw. But seeing X live last night makes me reconsider my assessment.
As a live band, X was incredibly tight. You could argue that since they've been playing these songs on and off for more than 30 years that's expected. But I've seen many bands falter in similar circumstances, messing with the arrangements, trying to change things up in ways that don't need changing. X was as tight as a bottle of Scotch. The combination of Billy Zoom's driving guitar parts and DJ Bonebrake's drumming was like a freight train going 70 miles an hour. Add to that John Doe's bass lines, some added keyboards and the slightly off-kilter vocals of Doe and ex-wife Exene Cervenka and you have something that is unique. Needless to say, the audience loved it.
While many would dismiss LA punk (or punk rock in general) for it's lack of musical talent, X, and more specifically Billy Zoom, fall into a different league altogether. Zoom is a multi-instrumentalist who played with rockabilly legend Gene Vincent for a period. His idea for X was to take the stripped down rock and roll style of the Ramones and add to it a bit more musicality. While X never sold a lot of records, they influenced a lot of bands. And Zoom's complex guitar parts stands a cut above most bands, punk or not.
Here's some video from the show. And let me apologize in advance for only getting part of X's brilliant cover of The Doors' "Soul Kitchen."
If you're in New York, you should definitely see this band. They are touring the east coast and also have dates in Chicago, Michigan and Ohio.