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Live From New York

The Fiery Furnaces / Holly Golightly / Gary Lucas / The Reverend Horton Heat

By Published: May 27, 2011
At the bar, there's a special beer 'n' shot offer, which is not the usual tactic adopted at the Highline Ballroom. It's quite appropriate, given that quaffing is one of the seemingly favorite bodily functions enjoyed by The Reverend Horton Heat. It's easy to guess what the others are, as this Texan singer and guitarist openly scrawls his inner self on his song sheet. This power trio's music is best described as extreme rockabilly, with that old 1950s template accelerated, heightened and punked-up into a beyond-psychobilly explosion.

The Reverend was in a chronological mood, diligently working through his catalogue year-by-year, picking two or three songs from each platter. The only impatient exception arrived with a clutch of newer tunes from the most recent Laughin' & Cryin' (Yep Rock, 2009), not least "Drinkin' & Smokin' Cigarettes" and "Please Don't Take The Baby To The Liquor Store." What did I tell you? Although Heat appears to be toying with the concept of relinquishing such habits (at least during these songs). The Reverend was flatly refusing to make any selections from We Three Kings (Yep Rock, 2005), his Christmas collection. Such a historical over-two-decades storyline was the evening's only concession to sensible behavior. Otherwise, the threesome gave one of its more hyperactive displays of gnashing rockaboogie, pandering perfectly to the raunchy crowd of tattooed, greasy-quiffed and be-leathered revelers.

The energy and momentum was wonderfully sustained for around two hours. The only resting moments arrived briefly when the band paused several times during some recorded background sequences, the house lights shut off completely. The uninitiated might believe that this was set's end, but it's a regular tactic observed by the Reverend, only signaling an intensified, renewed lurch into even more overdriven rockin.' Heat's razoring guitar was central, but his band mates contributed equally to the momentum. Upright bassist Jimbo Wallace is a loyal sidekick, enduring the hard slog of road life (blood was once spilt between he and the Reverend, in a car park at the back of a club). He enjoyed perching on his vertically-positioned instrument, whilst slapping out brutal riffs. Drummer Paul Simmons specialized in thundering multi-headed expression, mixing the head-bang of rock with the light skip of 'billy. A Horton Heat gig may well be a predictable affair, but there were no signs of the formula weakening, the spirit flagging or the audience appetite being sated. There were no lapses laying ground for the mind to wander. The crowd was always magnetized by the raw parade of macho moves, leavened by songwriting wit, bolstered by a wily sense of humor. The Reverend is an entertainer without compromise.

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