By Max Stewart
Los Angeles punk icons X have set sail for the summer, supporting English new wave act The Psychedelic Furs for a number of dates in theatres across North America. One of their first few shows was at Boston’s House of Blues, a night where I anticipated a mostly-Generation X crowd locked in for some nostalgic songs while wearing band t-shirts bought in 1982. The show itself, however, did not feel a nostalgic novelty event at all. In fact, both bands have maintained a fresh take on their old tunes while, get this, actually releasing albums of good material in the latter halves of their careers. Both of the band’s albums, X’s ALPHABETLAND and The Pscyhedelic Furs’ Made of Rain, are not at all gimmicky or end of career cash grabs: they hold up strongly on their own and shine live.
X is on tour with their original lineup from 1977, where singer/ bassist John Doe and singer Exene Cervenka brought the audience to their feet and towards the guardrail with opener “In This House That I Call Home” off of 1981’s Wild Gift. Their energy was immediately apparent, proving that X plays with the same heart and intensity of their heyday with a punk ethos still in tow. Guitarist Billy Zoom‘s raw guitar tone is still as vibrant as ever, with drummer D.J. Bonebrake keeping the backbone of the tunes powerful and on course.
The setlist was a perfect mix of songs from throughout the band’s career: Los Angeles (1980) and Under the Big Black Sun (1982) made up a bulk of the the tunes of the night alongside ALPHABETLAND (2020). The harmonies of Doe and Cervenka in many ways define X’s sound, and their vocals still interweave magically live in their 45th year as a band. The title track “ALPHABETLAND”, “Water & Wine”, and “Goodbye Year, Goodbye” are prime examples that this band continues to hit major peaks both in the studio and on stage. It was heartwarming and a joyous moment seeing Billy Zoom walk throughout the front row and crowd saying hello to fans after battling cancer in 2015. X’s merch booth was also selling tons of t-shirts to fans from 18-78. The core of punk rock is timeless and still kicking.
there’s a heaven & a hell-X, “Water & Wine” (2020)
and there’s an, “oh well”
who gets passed to head of the line
who get water & who gets wine
there’s a heaven and there’s a never
there’s no tomorrow only forever”
The Psychedelic Furs’ set was also highlighted by the fact that their latest release has some of their strongest material of their career: “You’ll Be Mine” was an immersive live event, with saxophonist Mars Williams front and center for some of the peaks. Founding members and brothers Richard Butler (Vocals) and Tim Butler (Bass) kept a youthful energy and stage presence throughout the night, as “Pretty in Pink” (noteworthy for being the title track in the John Hughes film) and “Love My Way” were also moments of Eighties bliss. The whole band, however, provided fresh flavors on old songs thanks to Amanda Kramer (Keys), Rich Good (Guitar) and Zack Alford (Drums). And, once again, it was clear based on the mix of the crowd that younger generations of fans are getting introduced to these tunes by their parents or inclusions of songs like “The Ghost in You” in the Stranger Things TV show soundtrack. There is hope for future generations!
don’t be surprised when every second has its place
don’t be surprised at all
don’t be surprised when all your days are yesterdays
don’t be surprised at all
when the new black is whiteThe Psychedelic Furs, “You’ll Be Mine” (2020)
and the new low’s a high
in the ticking of the time
you’ll be mine“
Overall, the evening was a fantastic representation of the fact that music from 30+ years ago can still pack a modern punch and longstanding bands can produce authentic, inspired releases later in their career. X and The Psychedelic Furs are on the road through August, be sure to catch them!