Just days prior to announcing an official live return to Los Angeles proper stage with a performance at The Greek Theatre on Oct 23rd with the Horrorpops and their LA brethren The Blasters: X had other areas of So. Col to warm up. The iconic punk quartet showed up strong and able at Costa Mesa’s Pacific Ampitheatre at the OC Fair on August 1st.
As the sun went down, the music got turned up beginning with The Blasters who kicked things off with their classic “I’m Shakin’” and then immediately launched into “Border Radio. The old guard fans were automatically zoned in for the rest of their performance. Their roots rock and roll sound was on full display with “American Music” with it’s Sun Records era influenced guitar parts. A solemn tribute also took place to The Blasters’ fallen keyboard player, Gene Taylor, who passed away in February ‘21, by playing a slowed down, heartfelt version of “So Long Baby Goodbye”.
Up next was Los Lobos, whose cultural musical melting pop has made them a roots music staple and the band just released their most recent album Native Sons on July 30th. Frontmen David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas exchanged lead vocal duties and entranced the audience individually with incredibly intricate guitar playing and appealing vocals. One of the band’s most accessible qualities for an American audience is their ability to maintain their touchstone influences while blending songs in Spanish and English. The band nailed that blend with “Cancion del Mariachi”, which was traditionally influenced with all nylon guitars and a flamenco solo, as well as “Kiko And The Lavendar Moon”, a slow moody song that featured a haunting accordion riff. Towards the end, they dedicated most of their time to covers of classic songs including their version of “La Bamba”. Their cover of “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead was a clear crowd pleaser and another way to showcase their musical prowess.
Once X walked on stage, the crowd immediately erupted for the punk icons. Their excitement was temporarily delayed by an electrical issue, raising the anticipation of the audience. Formed in the late 70’s, X has fans spanning over various decades. Each decade was out to support as fans young and old cheered the band on. Kicking off their set with “In This House That I Call Home”, “We’re Desperate”, and “White Girl”, three hits off of the 1981 album Wild Gift, they set the tone for what was going to be a riveting set.
One of the most interesting songs of their set, “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”, a track off of “More Fun In The New World”, gave us a glimpse into the depth of X’s musical ingenuity. After blasting through the song, they extended the end into a graceful instrumental, featuring a xylophone solo featuring guitarist Billy Zoom on the alto. It was something that normally wouldn’t be seen at most punk shows.
Throughout the show, John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s voices were in top form, blending with their signature harmonies, mainly during their early classics like “Johnny Hit And Run Pauleen” and the title track for their first album “Los Angeles”. Doe’s mid-range combined with Exene’s snarl brought their early work to new poignant heights, as X truly almost age in reverse on stage.
As the band began to wrap things up they once again thanked the audience and stated how amazing it was to be playing in front of all the people who came out to support them. They ended their set with their cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” to a rousing response. After much prodding from the audience, they came back to perform “Beyond And Back” and continued with “Goodbye Year, Goodbye” a song of their strong album Alphabetland released in 2020. They decided to close on one of their most iconic songs “Nausea” and that summed things up with an exclamation point.