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Monday, December 29, 2014

Live Review: X Takes It Down a Notch at The Fillmore

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 8:07 AM

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
X
The Blasters
December 27, 2014
The Fillmore


The legendary Los Angeles punk rockers X have always distinguished themselves from other bands of their time and genre, with the rock-solid drumming of DJ Bonebrake, the guitar virtuosity of Billy Zoom, and the poetic lyrics and intimate vocal interplay of John Doe and Exene Cervenka.

The iconic group hit the West Coast this month for a run of special holiday concerts with their friends and fellow roots-rock revivalists The Blasters, who opened the show at the tour's local stop on Saturday at The Fillmore in San Francisco.

While singer/guitarist Phil Alvin and company may not look as spry or young as they once did, age did not factor into their performance — running through a high-energy set of fan favorites such as "I'm Shakin'," "Marie, Marie," and "One Bad Stud," the band sounded just as good as the albums they recorded back in the late '70s when they were getting their start in Downey.
click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
When X took to the stage, it was apparent from the start that it was going to be a different kind of set than most fans had ever seen; John Doe picked up an acoustic bass, and Billy Zoom's signature Gretsch Silver Jet and hot-rodded amplifier were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the guitar slinger picked a Gretsch hollow body and an acoustic, trading off between songs — and all while sitting on a stool, unlike his usual splay-legged, rocker stance on the front of the stage.
click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

While some fans in the crowd (ones that likely grew up seeing the loud and distorted shows that X were famous for) seemed a bit surprised by the new format, the stripped down, quieter versions of songs allowed for more of Doe and Cervenka's vocals and lyrics to be heard clearly, giving a new look at classics such as "White Girl," "Los Angeles," "The New World," and "The World's A Mess It's In My Kiss."

The new setup also provided the opportunity to play some tunes that normally hadn't been included in live shows before.

For "The Unheard Music," Bonebrake got up from behind the drum kit and played a vibraphone, while Zoom blew several phrases on a saxophone for "Come Back To Me," beautifully recreating the sound of the original track that appeared on the album Under The Big Black Sun.
click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

The band also took advantage of the quieter setting to banter a bit with the audience, as when Doe playfully extolled the virtues of dive bars in the city before launching into "The Have Nots."

In recent interviews, Doe has stated that this "X Acoustic" format is the style in which the band will likely be performing in for the near future. After nearly 40 years of making some incredible music together, the quartet rightfully deserves to be able to choose a different artistic direction every now and then.

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Sean McCourt

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