Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Lee's Palace, Toronto ON July 31

BY Bjorn OlsonPublished Aug 3, 2010

A band that were playing dirty, punk-spunk-infected blues when the Black Keys were still in short pants, Jon Spencer, Russell Simins and Judah Bauer, collectively known as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, made their triumphant live return after a six-year layoff.

On a Toronto stage, Spencer looked the same today as he did on the cover of '93's Extra Width, all wild swagger and tight leather pants. In fact, he looked considerably less tired than he does on the cover of that record. While the JSBX kept up a torrid pace throughout the '90s, their six-year hiatus preceding this current tour has seemingly reenergized and re-infused the trio with the wild spirit of rock'n'roll.

Spencer has always been a classic showman (forcing you to lose count of the number of times he said "ladies and gentlemen"), and neither he nor his cohorts showed any give. The band rocketed through 90 minutes of songs old and new, giving themselves little time to think or breathe as they ran on pure natural instinct. Spencer even busted out some heavy theremin licks to the delight of the crowd. His mastery of the classic hands-free instrument was pure voodoo.

The band ruthlessly cherry-picked their catalogue with ease, chopping up some of their most recognizable songs into halves and quarters and pruning some of the more experimental bits for a better flow. Those anticipating some of the band's game-changing experiments with hip-hop may have been disappointed, but when the trade-off is a sweat-soaked show paced faster than the opening sequence of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, then you know school is in session. The Blues Explosion are back and badder than a Fred Williamson triple-bill.

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