X “Re-zoom” Touring with Rowdy Sold-out Performance in Portland, OR (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Call it a Christmas miracle if you want, but the fact that legendary punk rockers X are still out there playing shows after forming more than forty years ago is an incredible feat to say the least. What’s even more incredible is that their music has proven to be timeless while still possessing enough punk edge to grab younger generations of fans. This was evident from the sold-out crowd of young and old fans who came to catch X when they brought their annual West Coast holiday run – in this case called the “X-Mas Re-Zoomed Tour!” – to Revolution Hall in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, December 11th.

Getting the night going was Portland’s own Soft Kill, playing their dark music on an even darker stage. The band’s brooding post-punk stands out for a pop undertone that is amplified by catchy New Wave guitar playing and singer Tobias Grave’s vocals that fall somewhere between Robert Smith and Morrissey but with a melancholier grit. Graves paced the stage belting out the lyrics on songs from the band’s handful of albums, including their most recent full-length 
Dead Kids, R​.​I​.​P. City. As a singer, Graves balances punk intensity with a more vulnerable presence, which fits remarkably well with the band’s fast-paced, bass-heavy rock sound. 

Firing out of the gate with the bass-laden boogie of “In This House That I Call Home,” X wasted no time in getting the crowd moving as they followed it up with the jittery rocker “We’re Desperate.” Exene Cervenka held back at first, but by the time the band careened into the stomping anthem and longtime fan favorite “Los Angeles,” she was in fine form. The band would treat the crowd to some of the songs off their new album Alphabetland, with the title track being a highlight due to its infectiousness and the bouncy, percussive “Free” also standing out. One of the more fun moments of the set came towards the middle when the band leaned into more light-hearted fare, including the surf rock swoon of “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,” the soulful “Come Back to Me” complete with Billy Zoom laying down some sensually cool saxophone, and the simple but direct “Adult Books.” In between they would also bust out the all too timely “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” a fun highlight of the night that felt painfully relevant.  

While there were certainly moments where being in a punk band for over forty years was evident on the members, for the most part they delivered a cheerfully energetic set that covered a handful of their albums. Instrumentally, they also never missed a beat. Songs like “Sugarlight,” “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not,” and the Chuck Berry nod “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” would find the band locked in and firing on all cylinders. John Doe’s vocals and stage energy stood out throughout the show, while Cervenka was dancing about and wailing lyrics by the mid-point in the set, and the effortlessly cool Billy Zoom never stopped beaming his warm smile. Fans young and old came together to dance and sing for a band that could easily rest on their laurels but instead chooses to bring down the house with rowdy punk rock. 

All photos by Greg Homolka.

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3 Responses

  1. Another old codger — I’m 65 — weighing in: Their performance at Revolution Hall here in PDX was superb. Saw them a couple dozen times back in the day at the Whisky, Starwood, Stardust, Hong Kong, many others. Before their show here Saturday, I saw them a few months ago in San Francisco where they played at Stern Grove Park. They, and their openers The Avengers, never sounded better. It was the first time in 40 years I had seen either of those bands and back then it was all crappy mics, beat up amps, etc. So great sound, but with 20x the audience members, outdoors, in the daytime, surrounded by trees everywhere, it was just kinda weird. But here at Revolution Hall, where those of us who wanted could get pressed up against the stage within arm’s length of John, Exene and Billy, it was nostalgia bliss.

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