Review: X makes the music, and St. Pete’s State Theatre, go bang (w/setlist)

Exene & co. renew a 40 year promise to diehard fans.

What better way to round out a weekend geared towards veteran punk rock fans than closing it out with one of best American outfits of all time, X. After an absolutely triumphant and incredibly fun display by The Damned at the State Theatre on Saturday night, the longtime California pioneers took over the stage at the very same venue and delivered another one of its energetic shows as it has for decades.

(Listen to a playlist featuring songs from the set below.)

By sheer coincidence, both bands are out on the road celebrating their respective 40th anniversaries and, for many of the repeat attendees I spotted in the crowds both nights, it’s clear that both of these now legendary bands have been successful at retaining fiercely loyal fan bases.

Review: The Damned Smash It up at State Theatre in St. Pete (w/photos)

Formed at the dawning of the burgeoning California punk rock scene in the late 1970’s, X is definitely at the head of the class when it comes to that era. Releasing a string of magnificent albums that defined and defied the genre, the band was never afraid to throw in elements of folk, country and rockabilly into its sound while still sticking to its punk rock guns. As a result, they’ve amassed an incredibly dedicated fan base whose love for the band runs deep.

Very deep.

Plenty of X tattoos could be spotted on various body parts on many concertgoers on Sunday night. Yeah, that’s dedication.

And many turned out for the band’s Sunday night St. Petersburg visit on its 40th anniversary tour to see and hear the band perform live. Focusing mainly on its first four records, the band delivered an incredible 90-minute sampling of exactly what it is that makes it so great and so unique; the contributions that each of the four members bring to the mix. Oh and the songs…all those incredible songs.

The Focus is X: Exene Cervenka talks about her Pinellas days, punk, and more

Walking onstage as Link Wray’s badass instrumental “Rumble” pumped through the house PA, the four original band members were greeted with thunderous applause. Wasting no time at all in getting things off to a raucous start, the band launched into “Beyond and Back,” one of the best tunes from the band’s flawless 1981 sophomore album, Wild Gift, and, in an instant, the reason we love X so much was evident. Lead singers Exene Cervenka’s and John Doe’s intertwined unorthodox vocal harmonies, guitarist Billy Zoom’s rockabilly inspired licks and drummer D.J. Bonebrake’s pounding, booming work all meshed marvelously to kick things off in overdrive.

Sporting an X t-shirt, cardigan sweater, frilly mini-skirt and cowboy boots, the always intriguing Exene easily gets lost in the moment as she sings. Sometimes dancing about, slinking around, maneuvering her arms in twisted gestures and ruffling her hair, it’s sometimes difficult to remove your focus from the one-time St. Petersburg resident. Engaging the crowd on several occasions and sending out personal song dedications to local friends and someone from the area she used to babysit, Cervenka seemed cool, poised and intent on delivering an outstanding show along with her bandmates.

Mixing up the tempos and showing off their many skills, the band had no problem showcasing the many styles in which they dabble. “True Love” got more of a country feel while Bonebrake skipped out from behind his drum kit to show off his masterful vibraphone work. Guitarist extraordinaire Billy Zoom, perched on a stool for the bulk of the show, even broke out his saxophone to give the mournful “Come Back To Me” a more melancholy feel.

And John Doe…what else can be said about the guy with the deep voice whose bass work is the bedrock of the X sound? Doe’s rich vocals, either as lead singer, as on “In This House That I Call Home” or as vocal accompaniment to Exene’s thrilling delivery, sound fresh and inspired each and every time he belts one out.

“That’s some fucking punk rock for ya!,” he joked as the band wrapped up what was arguably the finest performance of the night, an outstanding reading of the still topical “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” that saw the band hit all cylinders and prove exactly what it is that made them (and still makes them) stand out from their contemporaries.

A red-hot rendition of their take on The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” led into a well-deserved and well received encore that started off, appropriately, with “Adult Books”, the very first song the band ever released as a single on an independent label many moons ago. Still fresh, still inspiring, the band sounded as driven on this number as it did when it first recorded it.

Closing with another high octane rocker, “Devil Doll”, the band wrapped things up and seemed elated with the audience’s hearty applause and their ovation. It was almost as if we, the delighted fans, were not only cheering for this triumphant performance but more so for the forty years that this band and their music have accompanied us and served as the soundtrack for our own individual journeys.

Thanks, X, for always providing more fun both on vinyl and through live performance as you have for so many of us. For anyone in the house who wasn’t already a devout X believer, Sunday night’s show surely did plenty to convert them. And for those of us who have been onboard for decades, it served as another great performance by one of our favorite bands.

Set List

Beyond and Back
In This House That I Call Home
We’re Desperate
The Once Over Twice
The Have Nots
True Love
The World’s A Mess; It’s In My Kiss
The Unheard Music
I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Year 1
Los Angeles
Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not
Johnny Hit and Run Paulene
Motel Room In My Bed
Soul Kitchen

Adult Books
Devil Doll

About The Author

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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