May 25, 2017
The Kessler Theater
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David DiPietro
Power And Emotion: X Returns To Dazzle Big D
Photo Courtesy X Website
After 40 years as America's premier punk band, one might suspect that X's best days might be in the rear view mirror, or that they may be slowing down or mellowing out. Any such suspicions were loudly and clearly dispelled at the Kessler Theater Thursday night, when the original lineup (plus one) demonstrated they are still a fine-tuned machine to be reckoned with. The band treated the packed house to a sweat-drenched 23-song set.
Taking the stage shortly before 10:00, the band launched into an incendiary "Beyond and Back," which went right into a blazing "In This House That I Call Home." These two tunes served notice that the band would focus solely on their first 4, Ray Manzarek-produced albums, all classics.
X is touring as a 5-piece this year, adding rhythm guitarist/percussionist Craig Packham. In addition to filling out the sound and allowing drummer D.J. Bonebreak to double on vibraphone, the dual guitar set-up also allowed for less duty by guitarist Billy Zoom, who is recovering from a recent illness.
X at The Kessler Theater in Dallas, Texas (USA)
With his trademark ever present smile, Zoom would play guitar seated for the majority of the show, but his fiery leads were as scorching as ever on songs such as "The Have Nots," "True Love" and "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes."
For those who associate punk music merely with aggressive primitivism, X is an anomaly. Each member of the band is as close to being a virtuoso as punk can boast and the addition of the second guitar made it even more sweet, adding texture to the soaring vocal harmonies of singer Exene Cervenka and bassist, John Doe.
"The Hungry Wolf" was an early highlight, being propelled by Bonebreak's thunderous drumming. The tune even provided him a moment in the spotlight for once was thought of as being the antithesis of punk, a (gasp!) drum solo. But then few, if any punk drummers can even come close to matching Bonebreak's proficiency. Being a drummer myself, I am always in awe watching him bruise the kit, so in this context, the solo was more than welcome in my book.
"New World," was a nice surprise. Originally an anti-Reagan diatribe, it was easily reimagined for the current, orange occupant of the White House and almost fits him better: "Remember before, before, they voted for what's his name? This is supposed to be the New World!" Another tune that simply cooked was "Your Phone's Off the Hook, but You're Not," with Zoom squeezing out rockabilly sparks on the fret board. The punk-famished Dallas crowd devoured it as they would a Memorial Day barbecue.
After switching instruments, Bonebreak to vibraphone and Packham to Drums, it was rather strange to witness someone other than DJ play drums for X, but the experiment worked more than one would imagine. The additions of these instruments, as well as Billy Zoom's saxophone work are a welcome addition to X's sonic palate.
The sound at the Kessler was very good as always and it didn't even take the first number to have it dialed in nice and loud. A pristine Art Deco venue, it is one of Dallas' gems, but something must be done to improve the air conditioning. By the midpoint of the show, the place was a steam bath and most in the audience were sweating as much as the musicians themselves. By the time the band hit the classic, "Nausea," I was suffering from it.
A sizzling "Motel Room in My Bed" went into a cooking version of the Doors' "Soul Kitchen," closing out the set proper. The vibraphone worked wonders for me here, evoking psychedelic 1967.
The Kessler house went ballistic and after a minute or two to catch their breath, coaxed the group back for a stunning, 3-song encore. Exene told the audience she was scratching one of the tunes ("Some Other Time," as it turns out), to play another. When Zoom began the eerie intro to "White Girl," the audience just went ape shit. It was a dazzling rendition of the song.
A lilting "Breathless," left the crowd just that, begging for more. X once again concurred. They closed the night out with the best version of "Devil Doll" I have ever witnessed, and I have been seeing X since 1983. This version of the song and the show itself, left the crowd deafened, drained and damp. The fact that the band can still put on a show of such magnitude, of such "power and emotion" as Exene described their early work to me, is nothing short of astounding.
Clearly X are still at the top of their game. There are few acts, if any, that can touch them live, and that was underlined emphatically last night. In 2017, it is great to still have X around, playing killer shows. If the smiles and joyous vibe conveyed from the stage all night is any indicator, X is sure to be around for a long time.
A mention must be made of the 2 opening acts. John Egan and Folk Uke were both solid, and judging by the positive crowd reaction, I could see either or both gaining wider exposure. Egan's voice and guitar playing reminded me of a younger Billy Gibbons, in a good way, and the sometimes raunchy female duo, Folk Uke (get it?), have a way with a good tune, as well as a dirty joke. Both are acts to keep an eye and an ear on.