Freewheeling, unpredictable and, well, explosive, many older fans hold close to the heart fond memories of the band’s past shenanigans. Most notable of course was Jon Spencer’s unstoppable path of destruction on ABC’s live Recovery set, where we sat in disbelieving awe as the frontman went on an ostensibly spontaneous eruption that has now etched itself into folklore.
Nearly two decades down the track the band is back in town to support new record Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015. Whilst the aforementioned antics have subsided accordingly with age we were about to find out tonight that JSBX remain the benchmark for live rock n roll.
Under a humongus vertically draped U.S flag, guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russel Simins soundcheck their own gear, a rarity at this level. Soon Jon Spencer bounces on stage and the band launch into Now I Got Worry’s ‘2Kindsa Love‘.
It isn’t long before Spencer lets fly with his first “Blues Explosion!” as he attacks the theremin with a fervour equal parts inspirational and disturbing. What follows is a lengthy set of mish mashed chaos. Songs are started but abruptly spiral off into entirely different directions. Incredulously these tangents occur without any visible communication or written setlist. Such chopping and changing can be exciting but also occasionally frustrating. To hear mere snippets of ‘Bellbottoms‘ and ‘Flavour‘ was somewhat of a tease to many old school ears.
In the brief gaps between songs Spencer frequently reminds us just who we are watching and also throws in a bizarre rant on education. Inspired by the university environment we are for some reason informed of his qualifications in air conditioner repair and Shakespeare recital. It isn’t all about the crazed frontman though as Simins and Bauer get their cracks at lead vocal duties, the latter also busting out some scene stealing distorted harmonica.
The regular set had packed more than enough action in but during the encore another level was found, powering through ‘Blues X Man’ and an electrifying ‘Identify‘.
The words that best summised tonight’s action came from Jon Spencer himself “It is 2015 ladies and gentlemen and let me tell you the Blues are still number one”. Judging by the reaction of devotees tonight, that sentiment was difficult to disagree with.