The Jesus Lizard, live at the Paradise Rock Club, November 14, 2009
“Get me something to stop the bleeding!” were the first words to come spilling out of David Yow’s mouth as his recently reunited Jesus Lizard tore into the first song of their triumphant set last Saturday night at the Paradise. And even though that’s just the first line of the song “Puss” from 1992’s Liar album, it set the tone for the joyously malevolent pummeling we were in for.
VIDEO: The Jesus Lizard, "Puss," live at the Paradise. Video by Mike Gill.
Your correspondent was standing near the bar as the band took the stage, at what he took to be a safe distance from the proceedings. Wrong! By the time Mr. Yow made it to the above-quoted lyric, he had already leapt far enough into the audience that I was suddenly propping his cowboy boot up as he swam across a mass of amped humanity. It’s a safe bet that anyone not in the balcony handled at least one part of Yow’s body at some point.
Any concerns that 10 years of dormancy would have dulled the Lizard’s edge were put to rest approximately two nanoseconds into the set. Somehow, guitarist Duane Denison (who sported a Federal Witness Protection Program–like moustache that I kept expecting to start peeling off his face) has made his mix of rockabilly, jazz, and punk phrasings even more devastating since the band’s apparent demise at the close of the millennium.
The Lizard really are an oddity. In their heyday, their music was dry, sharp, and effectless when every other outfit was drenching its mix in echo, reverb, and affectation. And as intense and brutish as their music was, it was far creepier and more cerebral than the usual straight-ahead rush of punk or metal. Think of them as the sonic equivalent of a drunk led out of the bar long after last call and looking for a fight in the parking lot. David Wm. Sims’s bass lines are just plain mean, and, as always, he flattened everyone with his nimble runs while flashing a thousand-yard stare that betrayed nary a hint of a good time. After the break-up, he became an accountant. Which wasn’t such a stretch — he was and is all business.
A lot of the Lizard’s power owes to Yow’s peculiarly antagonistic stage presence. Fans will recall incidents involving indecent exposure, or violence, or some mixture of the two. At the Paradise, he played it relatively safe. He even kept his shirt on till the final encore, an unusual display of modesty from a man whose genitals I’ve seen more often than I care to detail. This was nonetheless a powerful, visceral set — and in many ways a more musically adept one. When they closed with “7 vs. 8,” a deep cut from 1989’s Head LP, they stretched the ending until it snapped with a psychedelic madness.
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