Gig Review and Photography by John Bentley

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

There are various legendary bands that are on my bucket list of artists to see before I finally turn my toes up. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (or JSBX) is definitely one of those, so it’s off to Nottingham tonight to catch them on their UK tour.

Dusty Bible & The Canadians, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

Support for JSBX comes from Dusty Bible and The Canadians, a three piece (guitar / bass / drums) ensemble, with four backing singers. Not much information on this outfit, but I gather lead singer and guitarist Dusty Bible may be a local lad. They play a slow, heavy blues with tortured guitar. Dusty’s voice is low and gravelly to say the least.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

JSBX have returned to touring after a few years lay-off, during which they oversaw the revamping and reissue of their illustrious back catalogue. They deserve to be far better known. The trio of Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer (guitars) and Russell Simins (drums) have been together since 1991 and have made a host of acclaimed albums. Their distinct no-nonsense, hi-energy, style has remained fairly consistent, being guitar rock drawing on an incredible range of influences, including blues, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, garage, soul and hip hop.

There are some limited similarities with artists like Nick Cave and The Jim Jones Revue in terms of delivering full-on, in-your-face frantic rock, while sporting smart, lean, black attire, although the style of each band is quite different. It’s also pretty clear that this outfit have inspired some more famous stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll outfits like The White Stripes and The Black Keys.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

A typical JSBX gig, like tonight, involves hurtling through a string of songs at breakneck speed, welding them together seamlessly. There are rapidly changing rhythms, with guitars going off in different directions, before coming back to the song, then morphing into the next, with hardly a break. And it also involves quite a bit of Spencer’s trade mark howling and wailing and motor-mouth tongue-in-cheek shouting of ‘ladies and gentleman, Blues Explosion’ and ‘damn’ or ‘dang’. Spencer knows how to fire-up the audience and take them along with him – he’s a master showman, rather like a demented hellfire preacher waving his finger in his pulpit (albeit in black leather trousers).

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

As you would expect with JSBX, there is a dazzling display of tight, together musicianship from the trio. Everything seems so fresh and delivered with enthusiasm and commitment and it’s hard to believe they’ve been at it for over twenty years. There’s no bass player, not that you’d notice given the complex interaction of Spencer and Bauer’s guitars. On some numbers Bauer also does a bit of harmonica playing, while Spencer brutalises a theremin. Simins also does some singing from behind the drums.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 16-5-14

As well as old favourite songs from celebrated albums like ‘Orange’ and ‘Acme’, we get several great selections tonight from their most recent offering ‘Meat + Bone’. It’s clear that this album has maintained the quality control, and a highlight from the album tonight is ‘Black Mold’, with its infectious descending guitar riff.

Gigs don’t get much more raw or exciting than this.

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