SAN FRANCISCO Showing no sign of regret over having their equipment stolen last week in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion unleashed a ferocious barrage of blues, funk, punk and rock 'n' roll on a sold-out crowd at the Fillmore on Sunday night.
Apparently the New York trio are pushing on despite the theft of their gear. The Blues Explosion promoting their most recent album, Acme (1998) tore it up at the legendary dance hall and rock venue as if nothing had happened.
Playing through a bare-bones setup, the band guitarist/vocalist Spencer, guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins opened the show in a fury. The guitars blazed and Simins pounded out a steady beat.
A seemingly crazed Spencer paced the stage, throwing off showers of sweat and spit to the delight of front-row fans. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Ladies and gentlemen, that's the Blues Explosion! Lemme hear you say, 'Yeah!,' " the singer yelled with the fervor of a revival preacher.
Michelle Gholdoian, 24, of San Francisco, was one of those fans close to the stage. "I got a little sweat on me," she said. "I was pretty excited. This girl next to me was really excited. She's like 'Oh my god, we're close enough. We're almost close enough! I just want to feel some sweat!' "
Thieves raided the Blues Explosion's rental van July 22, nabbing a drum, a sampler, numerous microphones and the band's 1962 theremin, an antennaed noise-generating device that's part of their groove-heavy sound. The truck had been parked in a hotel lot after a gig.
At the Fillmore, Spencer lean, shaggy-haired and dressed in a silver suit dropped his guitar to tweak a theremin. The band borrowed the rare instrument from a friend in Seattle, according to tour manager Dick Meredith.
The device's analog squealing sounded like a short-wave radio stuck between signals as the band continued its onslaught, bursting into "Get Over Here" from 1996's Now I Got Worry. "Identify" (RealAudio excerpt), from the same album, had a raw rock power reminiscent of Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
Taking much of his showman aesthetic from the James Brown school of soul-man frenzy, Spencer worked the crowd all night, yelling "Do it!" and "Come on!"
A typical moment found Spencer ranting about his band's prowess on the groove-heavy "Blues X Man": "I ain't talking bout the milkman/ I ain't talkin 'bout the garbage man/ I'm talkin' 'bout the Blues Explosion man!" Spencer growled.
"I think they said 'Blues Explosion' more times than I can even imagine," Peter Charles, 27, of San Francisco, said.
Spencer chanted "I got soul!" as Simins kept time and the stars-and-stripes-clad Bauer plucked a melodic hook on his black and white Telecaster.
The Blues Explosion played "Full Grown," a lusty crowd-pleaser from their popular 1994 album Orange. "Baby, baby, baby, you sure like to fuck!" Spencer yelled as the musicians laid down the song's defining riff.
Ann Slade, 25, of San Francisco, said the band had more energy than in previous Blues Explosion shows she's seen. "They wouldn't really stop," she said. "I was kind of ... ready to go home, and they were still playing."
After an hour of relentless rock 'n' roll, Spencer threw his microphone to the ground, introduced Simins and Bauer and then left the stage as they continued to rage.
The band took a break, but returned for "Very Rare," with Spencer screaming behind Bauer's harmonica solo.
Simins' effects-laden kick drum blasted out a thunderous, throbbing, techno-style beat, upstaging the guitars during "I Wanna Make It Alright." Strobe lights flashed on the Fillmore's crystal chandeliers for the pounding intro to "Chicken Dog" (RealAudio excerpt). The two guitarists created a feedback drone during the verse, then switched to more stinging tones, picking up the pace and intensity until the song was a mass of guitar-driven chaos.
Continuing to whip up the crowd, Spencer smashed his mic stand to the floor, grabbed Bauer's mic, and dove with it to the stage. He introduced his bandmates once more before departing, leaving the theremin humming as the house lights came up.
Andre Williams, who served as executive producer on Acme, opened the show with his band, the Countdowns. Their set ranged from high-powered, '50s-flavored rock to reggae-rockabilly fusion. Setting the evening's raunchy tone, blues-rocker Williams sang, "You got a good pussy, baby/ The shit is good/ It's good. ... Ain't no place I'd rather be/ Than looking down at you/ Looking up at me."