But Doe is our sexiest punk symbol--let's face it, he's one good looking guy--and while he doesn't preen in a Jagger way, he's certainly the star when he's on stage. As a child of punk he couldn't be too much a cock-rocker as that over-sold excess was the very thing against which punk rebelled, but there's just a pleasure in his performance that's distinctly sexual (gee, who would have guessed--it's rock n roll). And while X channeled punk's vim and venom (see "When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch" as just one edgy example), they always had that sense not all of the past was worth detonating, from asking Ray Manzarek to produce to Billy Zoom's rockabilly runs.
This intro is a fancy way to get into John Doe's show at SOhO last Wednesday night, with Canadian wonders the Sadies as his support. Doe and the Sadies were out flogging their new CD Country Club, and the title is all too apt, as while they unearth some amazing country nuggets, they take a pleasing club to all the tunes, especially live (yes, another case of good CD, great show). As the say on the Yep Roc website, we're talking Bakersfield country, not Nashville, outlaws versus string sections. We're talking songs like "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," made famous by Porter Wagoner, that involves a husband coming home a day early from a trip to surprise his wife, but even bigger surprises are in store (you can figure it out--you've heard country songs before).
So in addition to Doe and his wonderful, totally lived in voice, there were the Sadies, a band that could make anyone fearsome (which is why folks as brilliant as Jon Langford and Neko Case collaborate with them). Dallas Good even has this scary visual thing going on--imagine Nick Cave mixed with something from a Tim Burton stop-action animation film. He's an ace guitarist, though, and when he and his equally talented brother Travis Good get going, it's clear the sibling thing has some magic. For instance, when the group did a rollicking cover of X's "The New World," the closing instrumental section slowly seemed to pull apart--the two guitarists taking their leads into different zones, opening the song into a wondrous, suck the audience in hole. It was double plus-Good, you might say.
And, yes, of course the X-related material got me the most, despite how groovy the entire show was. In addition to "New World" there was the appropriately bar-set "The Have Nots"--and how creepy is it that all the economic pessimism and class concerns from songs in the early '80s are totally on the mark again today?--and they closed with a final encore of "Call of the Wrecking Ball," the silly but over-powering Knitters tune about stomping on chickens. But stomp the song did, a crazy brilliant mess of music that stomped over lines like rock and country and proved the goal is to just move you. And lord knows Doe and the Sadies did.
*"My generation" definition: anyone who couldn 't have possibly really got Dylan prior to his release of Blood on the Tracks, and even then, at least in my case, I would have had to have been one mighty bright--and I wasn't--12-year-old.