Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Live At Scala, London

Tight, taut and seamless

Ladies and gentlemen, coming all the way from New York City to be with us here tonight is the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, baby. Sweaty and squeezed into the former cinema in Kings Cross, the Blues Explosion casually amble onto the stage. Spencer: leather trousers and concentrated scowl. Bauer: slick back greying hair, goatee and cocksure presence. Drummer Simins: all wild hair and grins as the crowd whoops and surges forward.

With a career spanning over twenty years they are far more than their name suggest; plundering their back catalogue through mainly ‘Orange’, ‘Acme’ and ‘Extra Width’ with added elongated wig-outs Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins are tight, taut and seamlessly flit through songs, dipping in and out of medleys and into psychedelic blues noodlings.

Opening with the screaming swamp-rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Sweet ‘n’ Sour’ the three of them throw themselves into their Gun Club meets Cramps best as Spencer grapples with the microphone stand and leans forward bellowing: “Get on in this room, Howling at the moon, I find some milk baby, up on the shelf. Got to get it up, mama, got to get down soon.” The crowd in front of the stage raise their arms and throw themselves into each other with reckless abandonment. Taking on his shamanic preacher role he walks towards the masses chanting: “The blues is number one” over and over before whipping back off into some fret-board gymnastics.

Getting the room really moving was their Dub Narcotic cover of ‘Fuck Shit Up’. Taking a rock ‘n’ roll approach to hip hop was something the Blues Explosion were always adept to, stripping away the laid back dub, live is both raw and visceral with a definite underlining groove whereas preachy spiralling trashy rhythm & blues of ‘Chicken Dog’ harks back to MC5.

As a frontman Spencer knows what he’s doing, every peacock strut, every crowd interaction and vocal break has been done a thousand times before in every spit ‘n’ sawdust and dirty rock and roll venue across the world and this is what makes his performance so effortless yet bombastic. Delving into ‘Orange’ they drop in the sensually grinding classic of ‘Sweat’. As the room gyrates Spencer drawls and grunts his way through whilst his and Bauer’s guitars bounce off each other with Simins’ drums twisted and jerking beneath the guitar howls.

Slowing the tempo for the country tinged ‘Magical Colours’ the Blues Explosion go ballady as the crowd pause for a breath, arms take a rest from the flailing and mini moshing dies down for a moment and this highlights the longevity of these three. Unafraid to go in their own direction this has given them a loyal cult following and tonight Spencer has the audience hot under the collar and aching for some more.

Words by Lee Puddefoot
Photo by Rachel Lipsitz

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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