Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Turner Hall
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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion has always been the right band at precisely the wrong time. The group’s caffeinated blues-punk drew the ire of the authenticity hounds during the ’90s, a decade when bands were practically drawn and quartered for not taking themselves too seriously. Later, just as acts like The Black Keys began hawking a slightly diluted version of Spencer’s raucous sound, the group all but disappeared in a cloud of middling albums. Now, with a solid return-to-form record (the new Meat And Bone) and a musical climate far removed from the uptight ’90s, the time seems perfect for a Blues resurgence. Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s show at Turner Hall was less a triumphant reclaiming of the throne than a passable exercise in once-vital rock.
On the surface, everything seemed to be in place: Spencer, guitarist (and Appleton native) Judah Bauer, and drummer Russell Simins still looked every part the gritty, piss-and-vinegar New York rock trio. Spencer, especially, decked out in leather pants and with sweat literally pouring from his brow, seemed nothing less than revitalized. But the show’s setlist was strangely lacking, favoring material from the group’s little-loved albums (2002’s Plastic Fang, 2004’s Damage), and almost completely passing over songs from 1995’s Orange and 1996’s Now I Got Worry. “2Kindsa Love” and the intro to “Bellbottoms” were treated to Prince-like medleys, and the encore-ending “Blues X Man”—while undeniably awesome—was too little too late. Not that Spencer and company needed to rely on old staples to leave their mark (the new “Black Mold” was one of the show’s early highlights), but their decidedly rote performance was dispiriting, and the crowd at the half-full Turner Hall responded in kind. It wasn’t a bad show, but it was an oddly uninspired one. For a band that frequently uses its own name as a rallying cry for the power of rock and roll (and yes, there was plenty of that), the Blues Explosion of 2012 seemed like a echo.