LIVE REVIEW: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, HITS, White Dog @ Manning Bar, Sydney (08/08/15)

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White Dog were up first and represented the punk end of the musical spectrum on offer. They started off with a straight hardcore delivery and then took detours into post-punk dissonance and angular shapes. From Black Flag to Big Black with a direct attack and socially acute lyrics they certainly primed the energy of the room.

HITS from Brisbane are a defiantly rock ’n’ roll five-piece with twin guitars and a frontman with a fine line in humour and attitude-laden vocals. The spirit of MC5 and Cosmic Psychos is all over their sound with singer Evil Dick admonishing the crowd one minute and tongue diving a burly gentleman in the front row the next. They provided the levity and fun to the night without sacrificing heavy rock and swaggering roll.

Beneath a vertically-hung American flag Jon Spencer Blues Explosion slunk on-stage and within seconds launched into their trademark blend of incendiary blues and funk fuelled rock ’n’ roll. Jon Spencer, the demonic preacher, was flanked by rhythm machine Russell Simins and Judah Bauer – the eternally youthful and essential counterpoint to Spencer’s sweaty exhalations. Bauer’s telecaster provided sweet, chiming chords, solos and slide while Spencer was all knee drops, flailing arms and raw primitivism. The band work as the perfect trio, playing both off and with each other and it’s a mystery how they can play an entire set with barely a break between songs. Next-level telepathy was the only explanation offered up in the audience. They played a fair chunk of their recent album plus a selection of their back catalogue, all of it working seamlessly. Fusing James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and the Minutemen resulted in an endlessly entertaining show and showed that rock ’n’ roll played with passion and intensity in its purest base form is still life-affirming.

Chris Familton

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