Review: X brings Exene Cervenka home to relive punk history at St. Petersburg's State Theatre
The crowd at Sunday’s X concert at the State Theatre obeyed the “no moshing” signs at the entrance. Instead, they made do by dancing and head-banging elbow to elbow.
On Mother’s Day, one of the founding mothers of punk, Exene Cervenka, joined three other original band members of X — rockabilly punk icon John Doe, drummer D.J. Bonebrake and guitarist Billy Zoom — for a 90-minute show, part of a 40th anniversary tour.
Relying on their first four albums created between 1980 and 1983, the band put a positive spin on the aging process. After 40 years, sure, there’s some grey hair and wrinkles, but there are also harmonies connected by decades, musicianship honed with countless live shows and a community of fans whose collective memory is rooted deep in the wayback machine.
First on the stage was Zoom, the quiet observer to the band’s punk chaos. Recognized in days gone by for his famed power stance, a battle with cancer has forced him to play guitar while sitting on a stool, although the man with the mischievous grin still rips it. He was soon followed by the others, who got to work with no fanfare, opening with Beyond and Back and In This House I Call Home.
Before powering to far forward, both Doe and Cervenka, a onetime St. Petersburg resident who worked down the street at the old Webb City, let the crowd know St. Petersburg was a great place to be on Mother’s Day.
“Happy Mother’s Day. We all have mothers, right?’’ Cervenka said. Later, she also gave a shout out to a (now grown-up) child she used to babysit who was in the audience.
The crowd was smitten as Cervenka and Doe growled and crooned out a total of 23 hits including The Once Over Twice, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts (with Bonebrake taking a turn on a vibraphone), Come to Me (with Zoom on saxophone), Los Angeles, Nausea and Johnny Hit and Run Paulene.
By the time the encore set arrived (Adult Books, Breathless and Devil Doll), X had made it clear: Its aim was to give St. Petersburg a powerful, punk-style, no-frills show.
Although men with receding hairlines and women in bifocals outnumbered 20-somethings, oh, 100-1, the evening was still all about the genre’s premise — youth, rebellion and the need to allow art to take care of pent-up aggression. And no, a mosh pit was never formed. But, several middle-aged men, and a few women, threw personal space to the wind, rushing the stage, head-banging like nobody’s business.
-- Piper Castillo