Jon Spencer, Rough Trade East, London, November 2, 2018

You can’t say that Jon Spencer doesn’t take his songs literally. There’s a lot of Bing Bang Boom at Spencer’s gig at Rough Trade East this evening, where he’s promoting the new album, Spencer Sings The Hits. The singer and guitarist is pretty much a solo artist these days, without his former The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion bandmates. But even solo artists needs bandmates.

His current bandmates are M. Sord (drums), who provides the beat of the songs. Sam Coomes (synthesiser) layers the songs with fuzz and distortion. And Bob Bert, hammering away, with actual hammers, on two large trashcans, adding a metallic blow to the beat. And with Spencer’s grimy and bluesy guitar riffs and licks, Jon Spencer remains an explosive live experience.

Bing, bang, boom
Bing, bing, boom, boom
Bang, bam-a-lama, boom, bang
Kick that can
Do the trash can

Now there’s a prime example of rock and roll lyrics. I don’t have a clue what Bing, Bang, Boom means. But meaning doesn’t matter when you snarl the words like saliva-coated verbal bombs, spitting them out through gritted teeth, while your thick-skinned fingertips beat the guitar so hard, it makes the metallic strings scream and wail from the beating.

Jon Spencer has been around for decades. He knows what works, and he works it well. He doesn’t speak much for most of the gig, and he mainly shouts THANK YOU after most songs. The songs themselves are concise and straight to the point – there’s no fucking around here.

But towards the end of the gig, Spencer makes sure to show us his empathic side. In contrast to the lyrics of a lot of the songs, which are often aggressive and angry, Spencer holds the microphone-stand close, embracing it like a true friend, and leans out over the first row of the audience because he has something to say: ‘Take care of each other. Some might say that’s not very punk rock. All I have to say to that is, Fuck Off! We are here together – turn to the person next to you and say Hello.’

This rock and roll gig is a from-the-gut attack of hard-hitting songs spiked with noisy aggression, contrasted with a from-the-heart embrace of considerate, reassuring compassion.

Aggression and compassion. Maybe that’s what Bing, Bang, Boom means.

Jon Spencer setlist
1. Do the Trash Can
2. Just Wanna Die (Pussy Galore song)
3. Fake
4. Time 2 Be Bad
5. Ghost
6. Hornet
7. Tough Times in Plastic Land (Sam Coomes cover)
8. Shirt Jacket (The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song)
9. I Got the Hits
10. Alien Humidy
11. Wilderness
12. Overload
13. Beetle Boots
14. Cape
15. Love Handle

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