“We never thought we would see that day,” X singer Exene Cervenka told the audience as the Los Angeles punk rock band wrapped up their headlining set in front of a sold-out crowd at the Pacific. Costa Mesa Amphitheater Sunday evening.
It’s been a really long year and a half without live music that didn’t include relaxing in your vehicle in quirky spaces in random parking lots. People were ready to dance and sing side by side – some masked and some not – with a trio of bands that helped shape the musical landscape of Southern California: X, Los Lobos and The Blasters.
At the start of the pandemic, X dropped “Alphabetland,” a fantastic new album and his first in over a quarter of a century, and the songs fit perfectly into the live set. While diehard fans usually aren’t that keen on “new stuff,” with so many months to sit down with this content at home, a new song like “Water & Wine” has received the same enthusiasm as a classic like “Los Angèle. The album’s title track and the song “Free” also stood out.
Every X player sounded tight, roaring through “We’re Desperate,” “The New World,” and dedicating “Breathless” to the Blasters’ boogie-woogie pianist Gene Taylor, who passed away in February. The band offered their cover of “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” and also dedicated “Come Back to Me” to all the lost souls over the past year and a half. The crowd, many dressed in a variety of faded black X concert t-shirts, spilled tall beer mugs and sang “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline,” “Your Phone’s Off the Hook But You Are Not “and the X version of” Soul Kitchen “from The Doors.
The band members seemed to soak up everything, taking long moments to watch the audience. “I don’t know about you guys, but it’s pretty special here” singer-bassist John Doe said in the middle of the set. He was right because at least for a few hours things felt good and “normal”.
X stepped out for an encore with “Beyond and Back”, “Goodbye Year, Goodbye” and closed the evening with the spirited “Nausea”.
East LA rock band Los Lobos were also in great shape on Sunday night. Although the whole thing seemed a little loose and singer-guitarist Cesar Rosas proclaimed “We’ve been still working on our show, you know, since 1982”, as the guys chatted about what was to come, when they got into each song, it was serious business with top notch musicality.
Los Lobos opened with “Will the Wolf Survive?” and got the audience dancing to “Chuco’s Cumbia” before bringing in Dave and Phil Alvin from the Blasters to perform the band’s “Flat Top Joint”, a song Los Lobos covers on their new album, “Native Sons”.
“We’re grateful that these guys have helped us get to where we are at,” singer-guitarist David Hidalgo said as he introduced the duo. Although Dave Alvin didn’t play with the Blasters, he was often on stage during the Los Lobos set. He fought on guitar with the guys through Little Bob & The Lollipops “I Got Loaded” and stayed up close: “La Bamba” spliced with “Good Lovin” from the Rascals.
Although Blasters singer-guitarist Phil Alvin has had his fair share of health issues in recent years, he still sounds amazing. The band opened the show and at the end of the set received a standing ovation from the crowd. The band exploded through “American Music”, got people up early and started singing “Marie Marie” and “Dark Night”. The musicians showed their talents to the crowd, engaging in extended jams and impressive guitar solos on familiar songs like “I’m Shakin”, “Crazy Baby” and “One Bad Stud”.
With: Los Lobos and the Blasters
When: Sunday August 1st
Or: Pacific Amphitheater, Costa Mesa