Live in Los Angeles
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by John Metzger
If Jefferson Airplane had been born in Los Angeles in the late 1970s, it might have sounded like X. After all, each band covered its respective foundation of early American folk and blues with textures drawn from the era in which it was formulated, but where the former surrounded its tales of politics and love with a heady brew of Bay-area psychedelia, the latter imbued its populist lyrics with the essence of punk and heavy metal. Although Jefferson Airplane forever has been a staple of classic rock radio, itís only in recent years that X has received more widespread attention. In fact, during its heyday, the group ó and its offshoot The Knitters ó barely dented the surface of public consciousness outside its hometown, but as an ever-increasing number of up-and-coming collectives have turned to the ensemble for inspiration, its reputation as well as its cult-like following have grown.
For the record, X never disbanded, though its recorded output and touring schedule have been rather sporadic since 1989 when both Exene Cervenka and John Doe began pursuing solo careers. Nevertheless, the original incarnation of the group ó which, in addition to Cervenka and Doe, includes guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake ó reunited in 1998. Itís this rendition of the band that settled into Los Angelesí House of Blues in November 2004 for an incendiary pair of shows that celebrated the 25th anniversary of its debut. Material was culled from these concerts to create Live in Los Angeles, and although the set is a visual wreck, the music that it contains is remarkably powerful. Indeed, it is, at times, a ridiculous sight to see such aging rock icons alternating between behaving like angst-filled kids and mugging for the cameras like the professionals that theyíve become.
From a purely sonic perspective, however, X sounds as good as ever on Live in Los Angeles. Sure, the bandís performance is ragged and raw, but the raging fury and adrenaline-soaked intensity that fuels the frenetic Iím Coming Over, the revved-up Chuck Berry-isms of Johny Hit and Run Paulene and Motel Room in My Bed, the crash-and-burn drama of Because I Do, and the punchy rockabilly refrains of Beyond & Back ó not to mention, the barbed, piss-and-vinegar vocal exchanges between Cervenka and Doe ó proves that the ensemble has lost none of its edge. While casual fans and newcomers still are served better by Xís early studio efforts ó most notably, More Fun in the New World, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and of course, Los Angeles ó the fervent, nearly unhinged bombast of Live in Los Angeles undoubtedly is essential to its core audience.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box