photo: Davis White
Original members Craig Bell and David Thomas are here with two 'newer' guitarists and Pere Ubu drummer Steve Mehlman. The lead guitarist is quite good, although somehow the energy does not seem to be quite there, and I am really missing the Cheetah Chrome-Richard Lloyd duelling guitar battles (let alone original guitarist Peter Laughner who died in 1977). The band is solid and plays the strong heavy psyche-rock style of their time with speed bursts that foreshadowed punk rock. They have old and new originals with garage covers such as their opener 'Shape of Things to Come', a 1968 cut from the movie 'Wild in the Streets', which really creeped me out as 'my' Dayton band, Toxic Reasons used to cover it and also featured a large and larger than life lead singer.
And speaking of singers, a rather frail David Thomas stood for a bit, until doing the rest of the set seated, getting up only to berate the drummer and threaten to leave early. His odd voice is still there and works well enough, unlike the rest of his odd personality. Yeah, it's rock'n'roll and Cleveland punk rock was a nasty ferocious little scene that really was as big and important as any in the mid-to-late seventies. Between, this band, their descendant bands, Electric Eels, and the Styrenes, we can only be glad there weren't (m)any guns at the shows, as I am not sure who would have survived.
Weird and dangerous as this was, and knowing that the danger can really bring excitement to a show, somehow the power and energy was a bit lacking and I just did not feel a real Rocket from the Tombs vibe that I believe I would have gotten on their first comeback tour. I am still glad I caught them and would do it all over again as this music is brilliant and essential.
Quotes of the Night: Quite a few oddities from Mr. Thomas, but I'll relate his comments regarding his one guitarist breaking strings on two occasions...
"You broke a string? That's coming out of your salary."
DT: (paraphrasing) I need to fill time and talk (while guitarist gets a third guitar after second broken string). You see what it would be like without me in the band? Well I am just going to sit here. Where are the drums.... (standing) "Mehlman, you asshole!"
SM: "If you just looked around, you realize it wasn't me.... OK, it's me"
DT: "What, you broke another string again!"
For funnier quotes from the wacky Cleveland scene, see my review of the Styrenes from the Velvet Lounge in 2010.