Last night the Heavy Trash played the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The first chance I got to see Jon Spencer's new outfit live. Since Blues Explosion show could sometimes be a drag, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Last time I saw Spencer perform it was with that very Blues Explosion and I walked out before the encore. Jon Spencer clearly wasn't enjoying the Blues Explosion anymore. During the endless jams on stage they were were running out of ideas. Hardly one recognizable song was played. Even though song writing was never Spencer's strongest point but dropping them all together made the show a dragging mess of half inspired blues riffs, going nowhere basically. The show started an hour and a half later because of Henry Rollins endless rambles who played the Paradiso early that night with a spoken word show. Apparently mister Rollins likes to hear himself talk because his performance stretched well beyond the planned time. Rollins was sold out, so his machismo beefed up ranting must still have an audience. The minute Jon Spencer stepped on stage it was clear tonight would be different from the Blues Explosion show I'd seen last time around. Spencer was backed by the Sadies and partner in crime Mat Verta Ray, the other half of the Heavy Trash. The Sadies had played a lukewarm twenty minutes as an opening act. Though very capable musicians the Sadies simply miss the personality to make their retro fifties act work. Personality is what Spencer has in spades. He simply needed to step on stage, looks somewhere between a young Elvis and a Johnny Cash mean, lean & strung out on pills, to give the night that extra buzz. Jon was going acoustic, while he left the electric backing to the Sadies an Verta Ray. Clearly Spencer wanted to focus on something different, explore another side of his capabilities as a performer.
As I pointed out in the album review, the Heavy Trash is much more song based. On "Going Way Out" jams and incoherent boasting on explosive blues licks are replaced by an original take on Rockabilly songwriting. The Heavy Trash is more R&R, less Blues, more Hillbilly music, less explosion. The tighter structure of the songs elevates Jon Spencer as a live performer. On "One Of These Days" Spencer even turns out to be a mean story teller going into some heavy heavy rapping with a hard Soul edge. By paying tribute to the Godfather of Soul, Jaaaaaaaames Brown, by playing his "I Don't Mind", Spencer made it no secret what inspired his sudden attempt at stand up preaching. The show was filled with classic R&R references like this. If Elvis, Johnny Cash, Eddie Cochran or Link Wray would still be alive they could sue the hell out of mister Spencer, his show is built up out of their corner stones start to finish. He has no qualms digging their graves for some nuggets. The swiping doesn't stop at licks, riffs and lines. Spencer's got the moves and the looks of a R&R renegade. The show was even spiced up with some hot sci-fi R&R honey dancers, Go-Go dancing their way from Venus to the Paradiso. Yet Spencer has this very distinct personality that ables him to get away with his pillaging of R&R past. If last night made anything clear, Spencer is the driving force behind both of his acts. But after last night I hope he will send the Explosion to its grave for good. The Heavy Trash makes good on the promise of that band in spades.
"Way Out With The Heavy Trash" is out on Yep Roc.
Live at Paradiso in available in FLAC format at the Dime or in MP3 format through Mega Upload. There's also two mediafire links for those having trouble with megaupload, disc 1 & disc 2
"I Don't Mind (live)"