Live review: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Supersense Festival Saturday 8 August 2015

There is one thing that you are always guaranteed when seeing the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBX): a damn good time! The best looking man in rock n roll returned to Melbourne with his impeccable band for two shows as part of the Arts Centre’s Supersense Festival; a collection of artists that step outside the confines of the safe and mainstream world of music.

Kicking off the night was American free-jazz guitarist, Marc Ribot. Having played with the likes of Tom Waits, John Zorn and Elvis Costello, some would say he was more than adequate for the support of one of New York City’s finest rock trios.

Armed only with a guitar, Ribot played a bunch of instrumental freestyle fiddly diddly jams that seemed lost and unfocused, yet had the audience applaud with appreciation. For what seemed like a jumbled mess of unstructured and unrehearsed guitar shredding, there was actually something humble in watching a man stomp on balloons in his finale while thrashing away in a mess of distortion similar to watching a 14 year old kid trying to impress shoppers with his badly played Metallica riffs in a JB HiFi or Allans Music. The difference here is that Ribot is in his 60s and had a lot of practice in perfecting the art form of “I don’t give a f**k if this sounds good, I’m playing it anyway!” It was, at the very least, interesting.

An American flag was lowered and Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion casually walked on stage with their laid back swagger. Simply put, these cats exude ‘cool’. In fact, if you were to look up the definition of ‘cool’ in the dictionary and there’s no photo of the JSBX then it’s safe to say that your dictionary is outdated. Kicking off with ‘2 Kindsa Love’ and tearing through a whole slew of cuts from their latest album, Freedom Tower, they played an incredible set of groovy guitar driven bass-less dance tunes fuelled by distortion and that unduplicated vibe felt on the streets of the Big Apple.

Backed by the flawless solid beat of Russell Simmons and the funky riffage of the ever stylish Judah Bauer, Spencer’s highly energetic form makes for an amazing show. Whether they’re enticing the audience with new cuts like Wax Dummy, Funeral and Betty Vs The NYPD or surprising all with an absolute corker of a cover in the Dead Boys’ What Love Is, the band were on fire and as solid and tight as can be.

Spencer didn’t stop moving the entire show, embracing the audience and doing the best he could with a seated crowd. Why a show of this calibre was held in a seated venue is anyone’s guess but by the time the encore came round, Spencer and Co. had the punters on their feet dancing and shakin’ to the groove of the “Blooooooos Explosion!”

There really is something magical about a band who have been together long enough to know their cues without the need for setlists or a structured show. The Blues Explosion just dish it out, rocking through whatever they feel like playing on the night, and they thankfully get the respect they so deserve, even more so on this night as the band played two mind blowing sets, both different, and with only a 45 minute break between.

There are so many highlights of a JSBX show that it’s hard to pinpoint any particular moment as the show is more of an experience. If you’re yet to see the JSBX in concert, you are seriously doing yourself a great disservice. There’s nothing else like it and you will leave with a smile, just as everyone did leaving the Arts Centre on this cold Saturday night. Thanks Jon, you came, we saw and you kicked out the jams, motherf**ker!

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