Live Review: X At The Roxy

All photos by Brian Michaels for the Los Angeles Beat.

“People are gonna say ‘I just paid six dollars to see this band, they’re not desperate.’” – Exene Cervenka in The Decline Of Western Civilization, 1980.

Six dollars? Thirty-two years later, the scalpers in front of the heavily sold-out Roxy are asking a hundred. How’s that for desperate?

Add X to the list of bands that have now been reunited longer than they were together in the first place. Ever since the original lineup’s first reunion shows in 1998, they’ve been a highly reliable Great Night Out for punk rockers of all ages. Playing in town at least a few times a year, it’s become easy for Angelenos to take them for granted. But their SSMF-affiliated Friday night show at the Roxy, performing their first album Los Angeles in its entirety and and featuring producer Ray Manzarek in a rare appearance onstage with them, took on a special-event vibe from the day tickets were put on sale and instantly vanished.

But whatever means the audience members had to use to gain entry, by the time the curtain rose to reveal the band launching into “Your Phone’s Off The Hook (But You’re Not),” it was surely worth it. I’ve seen X about half a dozen times since that first summer of reunion gigs, where they made the absolutely ideal Hootenanny headliner, and they’re always on their game. They’re so consistent that it’s hard to say any of those shows was much better than any other one, although some have been memorable for other reasons, like their appearance at Sunset Junction, singing those songs in the middle of the very street they were written about, or an irritable House of Blues show plagued by sound problems, at which John Doe castigated us for our failure to clap for an encore loud enough.

See Brian Michaels’ photo gallery after the jump.

But tonight, whether it was the presence of Manzarek, the slightly tighter than usual surroundings, or the nostalgic return to the Strip that they’d so proudly infiltrated in the early days of LA punk, they seemed to be digging in a littler harder than usual. Doe expelled buckets of sweat into the first few rows while Cervenka whirled like a dervish at center stage. Billy Zoom remains a six-string marvel, playing his frantic parts with amazing precision. DJ Bonebrake has lost none of his relentless drive or killer polyrhythmic instincts. And living up to his legendary status, Manzarek’s keyboard additions to “Nausea”, “The Unheard Music” and “The World’s A Mess It’s In My Kiss” sounded fantastic, adding counterpoint not usually heard in the rough and tumble live versions.

Classic-Album sets can be a little surreal but this is one I’m glad I got to see, not just because it really WAS a big album for me. Truth be told, they play 80% of the songs on Los Angeles at every single show they do. But it’s the kind of thing that makes so much sense when heard in its intended sequence. A good song order is really a work of art all its own, and maybe that’s part of the appeal of these shows – the sequence has been given a LOT of thought.

And if it meant losing the element of surprise for the first half hour, the band made up for it with a fourteen-song second set and four-song encore made up of the most barn-burning tracks from Wild Gift, Under The Big Black Sun and More Fun In The New World. “Motel Room In My Bed” was taken at double its usual speed – which ain’t especially slow. They did “Soul Kitchen” a second time, unable to resist the chance to bring Manzarek back up for another round. They did pretty close to everything I wanted to hear, and it was all foaming. It was real old-fashioned showmanship, the kind seen too rarely on the Sunset Strip of 2012.

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