Jon Spencer, Rough Trade East

IMG_9019London, November 2, 2018

You can’t say that Jon Spencer doesn’t take his own songs literally. There’s a lot of Bing! Bang! Boom! at Spencer’s gig at Rough Trade East this evening, where he’s promoting new album, Spencer Sings The Hits. The singer and guitarist may be some kind of solo-artist these days, without his former The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion bandmates. His current bandmates are M. Sord (drums), providing the (heart)beat of the songs, Sam Coomes (synthesiser), layering the songs with fuzz and distortion, and Bob Bert, hammering away, with actual hammers, on two large trashcans, adding a metallic blow to the beat. And with Spencer’s grimy and bluesy guitar riffs and licks, Jon Spencer remains an explosive live experience. 

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Bing, bang, boom
Bing, bing, boom, boom
Bang, bam-a-lama, boom, bang
Kick that can
Do the trash can

Now there’s a prime example of rock and roll lyrics. I don’t have a clue what Bing, Bang, Boom means. But meaning doesn’t matter when you snarl the words like saliva-coated verbal bombs, spitting them out through gritted teeth, while your thick-skinned fingertips beat the guitar so hard, it makes the metallic strings scream and wail from the beating. 

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Jon Spencer has been around for decades. He knows what works and he works it well. For most of of the gig he doesn’t speak much, mainly shouting THANK YOU after most songs. The songs themselves are concise and straight to the point – there’s no fucking around here. 

But towards the end of the gig, Spencer makes sure to show us his empathic side – and in contrast to the lyrics of a lot of the songs, that are often aggressive and angry, Spencer holds the microphone-stand close, embracing it like a true friend, and leans out over the first row of the audience, because he has something to say: “Take care of each other. Some might say that’s not very punk rock. All I have to say to that, is, Fuck Off! We are here together  – turn to the person next to you and say Hello.” 

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This is a rock and roll gig in its truest form; a from-the-gut attack of hard-hitting songs spiked with noisy aggression. But also, a from-the-heart embrace of considerate, reassuring compassion.

Maybe that’s what Bing, Bang, Boom means.

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Jon Spencer setlist
1. Do the Trash Can
2. Just Wanna Die (Pussy Galore song)
3. Fake
4. Time 2 Be Bad
5. Ghost
6. Hornet
7. Tough Times in Plastic Land (Sam Coomes cover)
8. Shirt Jacket (The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song)
9. I Got the Hits
10. Alien Humidy
11. Wilderness
12. Overload
13. Beetle Boots
14. Cape
15. Love Handle

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