“Cleveland actually does rock,” said shaggy-haired X singer Exene Cervenka last night as the veteran punk band started a three-night stand at Music Box Supper Club by playing its first two albums (and then some) in their entirety before a crowd that filled about three-fourths of the club. She thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for hosting a Q&A session earlier this week and clearly reveled in the warm reception she and her band mates received from the crowd that came to hear the band play its first two albums, 1980’s Los Angeles
and 1981’s Wild Gift
, in their entirety.
The band didn’t disappoint either. Singer-bassist John Doe proved he could still sneer and sound like he means it on the hard-driving “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” and guitarist Billy Zoom let loose some tasty solos in songs such as “Sugarlight” and “Los Angeles.” Drummer DJ Bonebrake proved to be no slouch. He kept time with accuracy and hit just as hard as he ever has. The band’s version of the Doors tune “Soul Kitchen” was punked up beyond all recognition and sounded sharp. The group closed the opening set that was devoted to Los Angeles
with a bit of jam as it delivered a freewheeling rendition of “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss,” a song that started off with a menacing whisper from Cervenka.
Without any significant break, the band then went straight into Wild Gift
, emphasizing the rockabilly-inspired grooves of songs such as “Adult Books” and “In This House That I Call Home.” After playing the album in its entirety, the band came back for a four-song encore that included a spirited rendition of “The New World,” one of many songs that featured Doe and Cervenka’s distinctive back-and-forth vocal harmonies. By the end of the 90-minute concert, you got the sense that the band was just getting accustomed to the room and is now properly warmed up for tonight and tomorrow night’s shows, which will respectively feature performances of 1982’s Under the Big Black Sun
and 1983’s More Fun in the New World