Love and Rockets
Time goes by (So slow when you start to live)
In my interview with David J and his current project “Night Crickets” he told me the story of them being in the studio for the album “Express” and they were already planning on the 3rd album. David was at an all night party with Pat Fish from “The Jazz Butcher”, having smoked a spliff as the dawn was breaking (1985) and they were listening to the first album by “Violent Femmes” and David knew that was going to steer the next album of Love and Rockets. That was how we got the epic coming of age album in my life called “Earth + Sun + Moon”. I had heard a couple of their songs but the night I sat down with the CD of “Earth + Sun + Moon”, Love and Rockets managed to mosey into my top 5 and park it, staying roughly at number 3 (with all their family in tow) since 1988. I even have it written in my will that I want my ashes pressed into a vinyl record of “Earth + Sun + Moon”. A psychedelic folk rock album filled with eastern philosophy.
I first saw them perform in July 1989 at the Park West Amphitheater in Park West Utah, and I got a few words with them that afternoon. I have met them on and off over the last 30 plus years, as they are all fantastic musicians and songwriters. They filled the side of a mountain, and told us at the end of the night that we were the nicest crowd they have played for yet on the tour (There is a bootleg recording of Kevin saying that to us).
I saw them at a festival in Denver in 1996 at Fiddlers Green, by then I was no stranger to driving long distance road trips to see concerts, especially someone as beloved as Love and Rockets.
When I saw the announcement of them rolling through Salt Lake, in their first time here since 1996, and playing a decent sized outdoor venue, I was counting the minutes (that dragged) for months. Something I never expected to ever experience again was Love and Rockets live.
There was so much chatter and excitement in Salt Lake over this show and friends from all over the state of Utah were rolling in for this monumental event.
The venue was to no one’s surprise packed, to even more surprise, a sort of absence of black clothing, and it was a “Class Reunion” of some sorts, of all the old school punk/goth scene folks. Basically everyone who went to see them in 1989 was here that night, and it was great to see everyone again.
The opening act was “Soriah”, a bloke in First American shaman clothing, face paint to match, with a drummer. He began his set by singing a couple verses of “Proud Mary” by Ike n Tina Turner, giving a humble respectful tribute to the queen of Rock & Roll who had passed into the beyond that day. He then blessed everyone with his feathered scepter in the calmest softest voice, it was so soft you could barely hear him as he spoke. He then began his throat singing, chant like. There is no way to describe this guy accurately, only that his music takes you to places in the far reaches of the space time continuum. He had performed and recorded with Peter Murphy, so no serious effort to connect the dots as to how he ended up performing for us that night. All I can say is that when he pulled out his Aztec Death Whistle and as he blew through it, the spirits came out to haunt all of us, and scare the hell out of everyone there. This guy is absolutely amazing, and worth whatever you would pay to see him live. He takes you to the metaphysical space that you would have to be to really enjoy the Love and Rockets catalog. Just look him up, it is an amazing performance.
After a quick shift, the intro tape “Angels and Devils” began to play, and we all knew what was coming. Kevin Haskins took his seat and started playing in sync with the hollow drums pounding away, David J came into the stage with his bass strapped on ready to play, and Daniel Ash came on the opposite side of the stage, the band was complete. Everyone wearing glam sunglasses, and ready to go. They opened with the unexpected “I Feel Speed”, to an overly excited crowd, we didn’t really mind that they picked that one, it just was out of place. As the punters cheered louder than the band was playing, at that moment, everyone there, band and fan knew they were in the right place. “No Big Deal” came right after with no words in between.
Daniel Ash was wearing his hair in typical Daniel fashion and a very glam mirror panel jacket and alligator shoes, David J was wearing a crimson velour leisure suit, with Buddhist prayer beads around his neck and gold loafers. There was nothing Goth about their appearance this evening, it was a mix of the image of Love and Rockets being a glam band with eastern religious influences, only Love and Rockets could be so adorned and pull off being the coolest band in the world.
David J said “All aboard” and there was a train whistle, and they went into “Kundalini Express” playing as tight as ever. The band was playing on top of the sound from Kevin’s High Hat cymbals sounding like they were “hissing” the steam out from an old train engine. Nothing in the world is as cool as a band playing on top of the steam engine sound coming from the high hats, NOTHING EVER.
With not even a “Thank You” Daniel started cranking out C, F#, G, D, F#, and churned out “Dog End Of A Day Gone Bye”, a long song, hypnotic as far as the guitar and base lines, just repeated a couple measures. The real wonder of this song is the imagery they give you, walking through all kinds of religious dogmas and in the end making sure to tell you “Don’t let the smoke get in your eyes”. Don’t be deceived, at least not for long. This is a classic that still sounds current, in content (more current now than ever actually) and composition.
A few songs later, David J finally said something, poetic, and insightful, if we were still bearing the burden of the Aztec Death Whistle, and those spirits Soriah called forth, he simply said “The word that would best describe this feeling, would be “Haunted””, and we got another trance inducing “Haunted When The Minutes Drag”. By the time we got to “Haunted by your soul, Haunted Your hair….” we were all pretty in a trance just swinging around like we were caught in the sway of the twirling dervish. I don’t know how long they played that song, but it felt like a long time, but that was also the point of the song.
As the evening moved on we all realized these guys had only 2 real charting hits, but everything they played was straight of the fan’s songbook. “No New Tale To Tell” seemed like it was only 25 seconds long, and didn’t seem to last long enough for all the memories I had from this song. It was fantastic, but, I wish it went on for a while longer, like another 9 minutes or so.
They played their biggest hit, because they had to “So Alive” which, was ok this time around, it was boring when I first heard them do it in 89, so I guess the song improved with age.
We got some gems from the later albums “Deep Deep Down”, “My Evil Twin”. This was the part of the set where I was hoping to hear the total gem from the self titled album, “Rock and Roll Babylon”, it would have fit perfectly here, but alas, the only one we didn’t get that I was hoping for.
“The Light” was the only piece that didn’t feel like they were into it. Daniel Ash said in an interview that he gets bored with playing Love and Rockets music, and it took a few measures for this one to get going. It ended well.
A staple of all live performances, we got “Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)”. That song is a must for every live gig, and is the one where everyone cuts loose. At previous gigs David’s mic stand fell down and he was laying on his back singing “BEAUTY, BEAUTY, BEAUTIFUL”, this time around he was at the edge of the stage in everyone’s face thumping out the bassline, while Daniel was doing the same on the other side of the stage.
They left the stage for a few minutes, and back for the encore, they started of that segment with “Holiday on the moon” then “Love Me” and then “Ball of Confusion” the Temptations cover, which was just awesome live. The history for that song is that they usually open the set with that one, but the first show they played in 89, it was absent from the set list. They tore through it with strobe lights flashing on each drum beat, everyone was pleased with this one.
They closed with “All in My Mind”, without having said anything the entire evening, just playing songs, it was this moment that we could all say with clarity, that Daniel Ash and David J have managed to maintain their voices. David J was singing very smooth, his token half David Gilmore half Roger Waters voice, sounded just as good now as he did when we first played their records. Daniel was tight and smooth with his voice, also as genuine as ever.
All in all, Love and Rockets taking the road, 30 years after their “biggest hit” days, might have seemed risky, but a band like this, having been continually playing in other bands and still writing and producing music, gives them an edge that we all were able to hear. They are sharp and as tight as ever, and it wasn’t a “nostalgic” moment, they just put on a show that you would want to go to if they came through once a year, very few bands can do that, but Love and Rockets did, and still do.
Check out the upcoming dates.
June 6, 2023 Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2023 Kings Theater, Brooklyn, NY
Jun 15, 2023 The Factory Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX
June 19-20, 2023, The Theater at Ace Hotel, Los Angeles, CA