Magic Christian at the Middle East Upstairs, September 6, 2008
Cyril Jordan is, like one of Kurt Vonnegut’s protagonists, a man unstuck in time. In the late ’60s and in the mid ’70s, his Flamin’ Groovies were always an iteration or two out of fashion with prevailing rock trends, whether it was a zig to the ’50s when the pop-rock zeitgeist was zagging to the then-present or a veer toward a Voxy power pop when everyone else was ’luded out in a dry-iced hard-rock Valhalla.
Last Saturday night, Jordan made his first visit to Boston in three decades — and far from seeing an old man plying some tired formula from the increasingly aged creative anachronists of the ’60s garage circuit, we got a sustained punch to the gut. Mostly in the form of skin beater Clem Burke, who’s best known for his aerobic marathon sessions as Blondie’s drummer. This was a special treat, since we got to see him unleashed full-throttle in the confines of a small club. Burke, Jordan, and the rest of the band played a mix of derivative originals sandwiched among somewhat obvious covers (Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark 5). But the pure rock alchemy of this crew belied the words scribbled on the set list.
Burke’s octopoid madness chewed up every tune by the halfway mark — meaning that a song that started as an innocuous little blast of big-beat go-go-ism would turn into the final fireworks of “My Generation,” or something like that. The cumulative effect was exhilarating. Forget the paisley attire, the tambourines, the Nehru Dr. Evil jackets, the striped shirts, the mod sunglasses, and the other totems of ’60s worship: the sheer ferocity and velocity of this unit warped them miles away from the oldies circuit.
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