Billy Zoom sauntered nonchalantly onto the stage of the Majestic Ventura Theater on Sunday night, picked up his guitar, and beamed at the audience. Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and D.J. Bonebrake followed shortly after to take their positions — then it was on! For over a sweat-drenched hour, X pumped out its vintage brand of SoCal punk rock, their lyrics replete with Bukowskian slices of sleazy L.A. life circa the early ’80s.
Among the highlights of X’s set were smoking renditions of songs off the band’s superlative first two albums. We got “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” “Nausea,” “Sex and Dying in High Society,” and the inflammatory title track from 1980’s Los Angeles, as well as “We’re Desperate,” “White Girl,” and “In This House That I Call Home” from 1981’s Wild Gift. Choice songs from the band’s later recorded output included “Breathless,” “The Hungry Wolf,” and “The New World.” In between tunes, Doe regaled the audience with non sequiturs and anecdotes.
Watching the audience’s ecstatic response to this legendary band, it was hard to believe that 35 years had passed since X’s inception. Teens and twenty-somethings — along with a few middle-aged fans — moshed, pogoed, and pumped their fists in front of the stage, while those not wishing to risk physical injury appreciated the show from a safer distance. Equally amazing were X’s resiliency and dynamism; they still perform with verve at a breakneck speed. Hearing Doe and Cervenka caterwaul together to the throb of Doe’s libidinous bass lines, watching Zoom’s frenetic fretwork, and bouncing to the rhythm of Bonebreak’s clamorous drumming, it was evident that X still excels at giving the people what they want: transcendent, glorious, working-class rock ‘n’ roll.