The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Paard van Troje, Den Haag, 18/07/05

Everything is sharp, every lick and riff are honed and every musical diversion has a suitably satisfying conclusion.

 

It's a Monday night and you'd think the place would be dead. But there's a fair crowd out for the Blues Explosion; as is only right and proper. Everyone's in a good mood, getting down and cutting some rug to the deejay's stomping garage tunes. Hell, everyone's receptive enough to appreciate Dalek, who's heavy, rather industrial rap was the support for the evening. He certainly seemed appreciative enough of the audience, going as far as to thank us all for giving him the chance to play his music. No worries, son. Off goes Dalek, down go the lights again, and back comes the deejay to play some more garage and blues vinyl, giving the audience the chance to frug along a little before the Blues Explosion.

 

At this stage, I'd like to pass on a quick thought that often occurs to me as I stared up at the Paard's empty stage before the main event. It's this. The one thing that always strikes me when I see the Blues Explosion is the sparse, almost miniscule nature of their set-up. Two amps, a drum kit and a theremin. Furthermore, everything is minimised by a bloody great big Blues Explosion banner that hangs from the roof, looking for all the world like it's been stolen from a village fete; something that by rights should say, "25th Uppingham Church Fete and Jumble Sale". But no, luckily it doesn't. It says "Blues Explosion".

 

At last, the three of them stalk on, Jon Spencer resplendent in a pinstripe waistcoat-hipster combination, looking for all the world like a gambler. Russell Simins and Judah Bauer merely look like they've just woken up. A long intro and we are straight into a slick run-through of Help These Blues off their splendid last album, Damage. Dang, from the 1994 hit Orange, soon follows and I begin to get the feeling that we are in for a great gig.

 

For the unininitiated, the band's live routine can best be described as a set of incredibly tight blues/rock'n'roll work outs, often running smoothly from song to song with nary a break nor stumble. Truly, the Blues Explosion must be the tightest live act I have ever seen; everything is sharp, every lick and riff are honed and every musical diversion has a suitably satisfying conclusion. Russell Sims and Judah Bauer form a very tight, very orderly rhythm section (despite Simins occaisionally getting license to batter the living hell out of his kit). This regimentation, far from being constraining, allows Jon Spencer to indulge to the full his routine of leaps, pelvic grinds and axe-hero stances; one moment a preacher man in full stentorian flow, the next a camp ninny-hammer replete with flounces and petty preening movements. It is a truly astonishing act, no matter how many times it is witnessed, astonishing in the main for it's utter, unflagging confidence, concentration and dedication.

 

By the time the band play Damage, sweat is falling in torrents from Jon Spencer's head but he never lets up; the manic stare still firmly in place, the legs astride and angular in pose, knees slightly cocked, looking for all the world like a figure from a Neo-Classical painting.

 

 

The crowd are in an amicable mood, content to watch the Blues Explosion go through Ditch, Sweat and Brenda from Orange and an especially brilliant version of She Said from Plastic Fang. A scorching version of Burn It On Down from Damage follows and all of a sudden there's a perceptible increase in the tempo and anticipation in the crowd. A posse of girls directly in front of us start to go through the entire catalogue of girly dances and lascivious preening gestures, obviously trying to attract Mr S's attention. Not that Mr S seems to know or care where he is. Bug-eyed and drenched in sweat, he screeches and gibbers into the microphone. Of course - something that I should have mentioned earlier – the words, "blues explosion" (obligatory at any Blues Explosion gig), pepper nearly every song. Furthermore, Jon S reminds us forcibly at times that "this ain't the blooslaydeezangenlemen, this is rocknroll". Of course it is. How could anyone forget?

 

 

A stunning repertoire is called abruptly to a halt with a display of screeching and a great deal of theremin twiddling, Jon Spencer looking very sinister in the spotlight's glow, as if he is a warlock conjouring up spirits and ghouls. A perfect encore with Bellbottoms and it's all over. Brilliant. I can never tire of seeing this band.

 

Words: Richard Foster

Photographs : Damian Leslie