I’m sure most of you have been out to see shows post lockdown, but for me, seeing X perform their 40th anniversary celebration of the release of their iconic album “Los Angeles” at the Greek Theatre this past Saturday was my first one back. Now, of course there have been many shows throughout Southern California that I could have attended over the past few months, but not only did I want to make sure that my experience was a safe one, but also that it was the “right” one.
During the lockdown, I was asked many times what was the last show I saw before the world shut down, and I was proud to answer Jenny Lewis at the H Club in Hollywood. So, since Jenny Lewis was the last, I had to make sure my first one back was equally as cool. Being an X fan my whole life, I decided the X show at the Greek was going to be THE one. And, boy, I’m extremely glad I made that decision.
X sauntered out on stage, still looking like the gang you know you’d never be cool enough to join. Singer/bass guitarist John Doe wore his trademark shirt with the arrow design and his cowboy hat. Singer Exene Cervenka floated around the stage with her wild hair, in her floral black dress and custom jacket with a large “X” logo on the back. Drummer D. J. Bonebreak and guitarist Billy Zoom were both simply casually cool.
They picked up their instruments and kicked off their set with “Beyond & Back” from their 1981 album “Wild Gift.” They played with extreme vigor, sounding like no time had passed, and progressed with three more songs from the “Wild Gift” album: “In This House I Call Home,” “We’re Desperate,” and “White Girl,” which highlighted those unique Doe and Cervenka minor harmonies.
X punched straight into their newest single, “Alphabetland,” off their 2020 album with the same name, and continued with “Free” from the same album. Both songs slipped effortlessly into their set, sounding like classics, and worked as a smooth transition in to their iconic album “Los Angeles.”
Being that “Los Angeles” was the album we were all celebrating that night, the band chose to play it in its entirety, and in order, starting with “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not,” “Johny Hit & Run Paulene,” and “Soul Kitchen.” Doe then took a moment to speak to the crowd. “Speaking of Ray Manzarek [the keyboard player on “Soul Kitchen” and “Nausea,” the producer of the “Los Angeles” album, and member of The Doors, who were the originators of the song they had just covered]… Ray wanted to be here, but he couldn’t make it… but maybe he still is here… Playing his part tonight is Mr. Greg Kuehn.” This introduction irrupted in a roar of cheers from the T.S.O.L. fans in the audience. Kuehn is a big part of the Orange County punk scene, and has played with T.S.O.L. as well as The Church and Bob Dylan, among others over the years. Kuehn remained on stage to perform the next song “Nausea” as well.
Doe continued, “We also have another special guest. Exene would you like to introduce her?” Cervenka took over the introduction, while taking a crack at Doe, “I’m not sure if I’m still even here. I don’t know why you had to bring that up,” she laughed. “Anyway, we do have a special guest to sing tonight. Violet, would you please come out?” Violent Grohl strolled out from stage left with little bounce in her step, wearing a smile and a black baby doll dress. She stepped up to the mic as the band began to play “Nausea,” which Grohl had recently performed with her dad and the Foo Fighters along with Krist Novoselic at Lollapalooza this past August.
Her confidence, her maturity, and her voice made me question if she really was only 15. Her performance was absolutely perfect, and she gave me faith in Generation Z.
X carried on with the more tracks from “Los Angeles,” with Doe pausing to dedicate “Unheard Music” to “The Whisky a Go Go – to all of you who were there – and all of you who should’ve been there.” I fell into the “should have been there” category, unfortunately. They continued with more songs from “Wild Gift,” “Alphabetland,” “Under The Big Black Sun,” and “More Fun In the New World.”
Cervenka addressed the audience toward the end of their set saying, “Thank you so much for coming out tonight. It seems so hard sometimes to even go anywhere, so we’re lucky we can be even anywhere right now.” She seemed moved and genuinely emotional. Cervenka continued, “It’s great. Everything is just fantastic. Could anything be better than right this second?”
Doe, looking to the future, added a dedication of “Goodbye Year,” a track from their “Alphabetland” album to the audience. “This next song we want to send out to you when the year changes. Last year was pretty fucked up. This year has been no picnic… I’m dedicating this song to you… If you can remember, this is your song on New Year’s.”
Before the night ended, Doe made sure to thank the supporting bands, his friends The Blasters and The Horrorpops, and took the opportunity to say, “Don’t forget to exercise your right as a citizen and vote.” The band ended their show with “Motel Room In My Bed” off the “Under The Big Black Sun” album.
As I was power-walking to my car to try to beat the exodus, I saw a younger man with an older gentleman doing the same. I asked if they were father and son. The son Jack, 22, confirmed that was the case. He said his dad came all the way from Lake Tahoe to see the show. I asked Jack what his thoughts were on it, and he replied, “I thought it was great. My dad said they were doing one of the iconic albums so I had to see what was going on. I loved the sound of it, and I love the openers [Horror Pop and The Blasters] too.” It wasn’t just Jack’s dad who roped his kid into seeing X that night. I saw many dad and son and mother and daughter combos in the audience.
The mere fact that Violet Grohl joined the band onstage shows that X truly has a multigenerational audience. So, here’s my answer to Cervenka’s question, “Could anything be better than right this second?” My answer is no. Now, here are my questions for you. What’s the first show you’ve been to since lockdown? Or are you still waiting for your ultimate cool show? Because if you missed X at the Greek, you blew it.
CHECK OUT THE SHOW PHOTO GALLERY
Up next for X, a series of West Coast holiday shows!