Reverend Horton Heat Marquee Theatre Saturday, July 16, 2011
Reverend Horton Heat makes an annual stop in Phoenix year after year and never fails to put on a good show. Sure, the band tends to play a lot of the same songs and tell a few of the same jokes, but there's enough variety to keep things fresh, especially when they don't play a holiday show for once.
Last night marked the second to last performance on the band's 25th anniversary tour. Reverend Horton Heat always plays a good mix of material, but on this tour made a point to perform at least one song from each of their ten albums.
Half the fun of a Reverend Horton Heat show is checking out the opening acts. From The Horrorpops to Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister, bands of all genres have shared the stage with The Rev. An energetic punk band like Swingin' Utters sets the mood for a raucous, exciting evening.
Like most of their Fat Wreck contemporaries, California-based Swingin' Utters formed in the mid-90s and plays skate punk/punk revival. Their generous hour-long set full of short, fast, and very danceable songs appealed to a few diehards in the audience that seemed to mosh incessantly. The band mixed things up with a reggae intro to "Catastrophe" and the country fried "Scary Brittle Frame." Reverend Horton Heat's style samples just about every suffix of -billy imaginable, favoring rockabilly and psychobilly, with recent material being a bit more on the hillbilly side of things. The Rev has his share of vices explored through songs like "It's Martini Time," "Bales of Cocaine," and "Marijuana." The traveling reverend has finally arrived, rest assured it's nothing like the religious revival of your grandma's era. Last night's set was just as rowdy and raunchy as the rest of them.
A brassy recording played as Reverend drummer Paul Simmons took the stage and jumped straight into "Marijuana." Upright bassist Jimbo Wallace was on his heels with Jim Heath--the Reverend Horton Heat himself--in tow. Jim and Jimbo effortlessly joined in, both looking serious until Jim smirked and said the word that defines the song- "marijuana." His sly grin grew as the crowd screamed it back.
"Baby You Know Who," the track that follows "Marijuana" on debut album Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em, immediately followed. The band had no signs of slowing down, transitioning into "Lonesome Train Whistle."
After playing three songs back to back, Jim said they would be playing two songs from each album in chronological order to commemorate 25 years of Reverend Horton Heat. "This is also from our second album. It's one of those obscure cover songs from a Dallas, Texas band called Loco Gringos. It's called 'Nurture my Pig.'" In typical Rev fashion, the song has a lounge sound with somewhat dirty lyrics, the exact perverse combination that fans know and love.
Jim introduced "Now, Right Now" as a song used on The Drew Carey Show. The band shifted away from the fast rock 'n' roll songs that started off the evening by playing "Crooked Cigarette." Considering all the great upbeat songs on It's Martini Time, the song was a somewhat of a strange choice, but it was nice to slow things down.
While introducing the songs from Space Heater, Jim went on a bit of a tangent, saying it was "widely recognized as the worst album we ever did by the so-called experts that will speak hours and hours about music but don't know crap." He identified these individuals as being highly employable by Spin Magazine and Interscope. The writer in question wrote an article in 1995 saying the band was as big as they deserved to be. The record executive kept calling to ask if the band was sure they wanted to have a song called "Baby, I'm Drunk," and Jim's response was, "yes, turd toes."
In the end, the opinions of the record executive and the writer really didn't matter. The crowd still danced and threw fists in the air, screaming along to the chorus. Its counterpart was "Jimbo Song," another crowd favorite, yielding one of biggest circle pits of the evening as usual.
The spotlight was still on Jimbo as he played the intricate bass riff of "The Party in Your Head." He carried the bass around like he was dancing with it, then set it down on its side and ferociously slapped the strings with both hands. Jim stood on top of it and played an intricate solo. This is one of the band's signature moves that used to show up a bit more frequently in their sets. Regardless, I'm glad they did it at least once. Jimbo had complete control of his behemoth double bass, hoisting it overhead and throwing it a few feet in the air when the song ended.
It looks like they were only planning on one Spend a Night in the Box song. Jim said they were going to "jump ahead and play four songs off our most recent LP. I say LP because it is a long playing album," explaining that vinyl always sells out fast although fans can still get the album through CDs or file sharing, with a hint of menace.
With a lengthy explanation of the lack of cacti in Texas and New Mexico, Jim asked Jimbo to do "the saguaro dance." The bassist stood like a cactus and moved his arms up and down. "It's sweeping the nation, millions of people across the world aren't doing it," Jim said, "Make Jimbo happy and do the saguaro!" It caught on for a little bit during "Ain't No Saguaro in Texas," until the crowd started to thin out. I'm not sure if it was due to the fact that they were playing new songs or because it was getting late. At this point it was 11, most Marquee shows are over by then.
Personally, I thought playing four new songs back to back was a bad idea. Not that they sounded bad (they didn't), the band should have either played just a couple new songs or dispersed the four throughout the set. Things got a bit more honky tonk with "Please Don't Take my Baby to the Liquor Store" and "Death Metal Guys" played back to back.
A hotrod revved as the stage went dark. It would have been a great intro to one of the band's many car songs if it weren't looped over and over again. The crowd remained patient, occasionally clapping and cheering as they waited for the band to return. This went on for a few minutes until Jim said the band resolved some technical issues. The car sounds were intended for "Galaxie 500," which ended up being worth the wait. Now rested, the audience ran around like crazy with a massive energy burst.
No matter what time of year it is, Phoenix cannot escape the Reverend Horton Heat Christmas. "We did a song or two from all our albums except the Christmas album. We're not gonna do that in the middle of July," Jim said, emphasizing the long U in July, "okay, let's do a Christmas song." Jim and Jimbo switched instruments for "Run Rudolph Run," which was surprisingly well received.
"Alright, that's it. We've played all our songs," Jim said, met with a slew of booing. From then on, the set was decided by fan requests. While selecting a song, the band played the beginning of ZZ Top's "La Grange." Jim stopped and said, "We're not going to do ZZ Top. Listen, here's the truth, we shouldn't try songs we haven't played before. There's songs we wrote that we shouldn't play." He said he's written about 120 songs but has killed about 20 billion brain cells like a freebird, then played the opening riffs to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song. "That's another song we shouldn't play." In response to a Motorhead request, he said, "Lemmy doesn't even do 'Ace of Spades' anymore."
Jim made no secret of the requests he took, "a pretty girl A. wants to hear a slow song and B. I'm okay with that." He included explanations and fun facts for some songs like "In Your Wildest Dreams," which was in a couple movies and TV shows, including "cool stuff like Homicide: Life on the Street and Home Fries, a lame movie." A few couples slow danced until Jim prompted the crowd to say "cha, cha, cha" at the very end.
After a lengthy encore break, the band returned with "Big Red Rocket of Love," their staple closing song complete with an introduction and solo from each member. Jim was last, as Jimbo said, "I've been in this band 23 years. I know a lot about this man. This man has a true love for country western music." Jim lead a rockabilly version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" accented with a guitar solo that breathed new life into the song while respecting its original structure.
The moment "Folsom Prison" ended, the band returned to the final verse of "Big Red Rocket of Love" and played an extended outro, accelerating to a grandiose finish. Around 12:30, Jim said goodnight and reminded us once again that there ain't no saguaros in Texas.
Setlist: 1. Marijuana 2. Baby You Know Who 3. Lonesome Train Whistle 4. Nurture My Pig (Loco Gringos cover) 5. Cruisin' for a Bruisin' 6. Five-O-Ford 7. Now, Right Now 8. Crooked Cigarette 9. Baby, I'm Drunk 10. Jimbo Song 11. The Party in Your Head 12. Ain't No Saguaro in Texas 13. Drinkin' and Smokin' Cigarettes 14. Please Don't Take my Baby to the Liquor Store 15. Death Metal Guys 16. Galaxie 500 17. Indigo Friends 18. Run Rudolph Run 19. The Devil's Chasing Me 20. Eat Steak 21. In Your Wildest Dreams 22. Bales of Cocaine 23. Psychobilly Freakout Encore: 24. Big Red Rocket of Love 25. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)
Last Night: Reverend Horton Heat at Marquee Theatre.
Personal Bias: I'm pretty sure I haven't missed a Reverend Horton Heat show since I started seeing them eight years ago.
The Crowd: Not quite as dressed up as previous concerts, but there were plenty of punks and greasers rocking out.
Random Notebook Dump: My compliments go out to whoever decided to play The Living End and Dead Kennedys between bands.