The Jesus Lizard at Turner Hall
The noise band is still deranged after all these years
- Bill Cosby delivers lighthearted enlightenment at Riverside Theater
- Satan for the masses: Ghost B.C. brings spooky Swedish metal to Turner Hall
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver bombastic, potent show at Turner Hall
- Joe Bonamassa falls into familiar blues groove at Riverside Theater
- Milwaukee Psych Fest delivers variations on a tripped-out theme
I was 15 years old the first time I saw The Jesus Lizard, and like pretty much anyone who saw them back then I was entranced by front man David Yow. I had grown up listening to hardcore punk bands, so I was well versed in the aesthetics of rage. But there was something different about Yow: He was darker, more menacing, even more sexual than what I was used to seeing. While Yow was still a relatively young man, there was a maturity to his on-stage persona that was both threatening and exhilarating. He had learned the power of violence, and there was a steely determination in the way he stalked the audience. I was afraid of him, but I was also in awe of the way he channeled his aggression into his performance. No energy was ever wasted.
Fast forward almost 20 years and The Jesus Lizard is on the road again, supporting the re-release of the seminal albums Head, Pure, Goat, and Liar. Yow, despite pushing 50, was still the center of attention Tuesday night at Turner Hall, and he spent much of the band’s stellar set on the heads of the capacity crowd—even stopping at one point to beat on the head of an unruly fan with his microphone.
The rest of The Jesus Lizard has aged just as gracefully as Yow. Classics such as “Seasick,” “Gladiator,” “Blockbuster,” “Mouth Breather,” and “Bloody Mary” sounded as good as ever, with guitarist Duane Denison’s piercing riffs leading the way. Yet the key to the band’s signature sound remains Mac McNeilly, whose drumming gave The Jesus Lizard’s material a certain looseness and swagger, granting Yow the space to howl like a deranged bluesman.
There is something primal about Yow’s vocals, and the gasps and guttural cries that litter the band’s songs say more than his lyrics could ever. It's a visceral approach that allows Yow to tap into a true human condition—anger—that isn’t bound by age. This is the main reason why the band’s catalogue doesn’t seem dated, and why the current reunion tour doesn’t seem forced. Yes, they are all a bit older, but the passions that The Jesus Lizard inflames never go out of style. Listening to Yow rant about “fucking mouth breathers” still reminds of the dullards who roamed the halls of my high school. At 35, I now see that the epithet also describes those who drive Hummers and attend Tea Party rallies. Fucking mouth breathers.