Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Panther Burns / Eliza Battle at the Beauty Bar, Las Vegas, Monday Oct 26, 2015

I almost couldn't believe that the legendary Panther Burns was going to make an appearance in Las Vegas - something they haven't done since Wayne Coyner got them to perform in his Underground Record Store back in the 80's. I saw Tav Falco's group throughout the 80's in Los Angeles (their first show at the Cathay De Grande, supporting Behind the Magnolia Curtain, as well as several subsequent gigs, including a friend's backyard bar-be-que!), but have not had a chance to experience them live for eons, so I was quite excited about this one. Unfortunately, they came through on a Monday, guaranteeing a small crowd, which is what they received, but the audience was quite enthusiastic and certainly fans.

Opening was a local act, Eliza Battle, a somewhat cow-punk-styled group with the standard 2-guitar, bass, drums instrumentation, but with a female harmony singer, which added a lot to the tunes. The bassist sang (and belched!), as well, giving some numbers nice, 3 part harmonies. Interesting stuff - I'm sure I'll see them again soon.

Unfortunately, the venue played some terrible disco between bands - I can never understand why it is so difficult to play appropriate music for a night, but it seems especially hard at the Beauty Bar for some reason - maybe it is what their average clientele likes, But, the sound was good for the groups - not overly loud and you could actually hear everything - so I suppose I should not complain!

A noticeable change in vibe with some hep soundtrack music that led to the appearance of the unapproachable (as Tav says) Panther Burns - I didn't catch everyone's names, but Falco appeared in a super-sharp sharkskin suit, with an equally dapper Gretsch guitar-player, a cool key player, sharp dresser and excellent drummer Toby Dammit (Stooges/Nick Cave) and Mike Watt (Minuteman/Stooges), looking like someone's disheveled, lost grandpa, on bass, which he excelled at. He did keep to the back and stayed in the groove without grandstanding - other than a swingin' bass solo (encouraged by Falco) towards the end of the set.And he played a violin-shaped bass that matched Falco's long-standing 6-stringer!

Tav showed off his fancy footwork while the crew gave us a fine version of "Green Onions", and then he picked up his guitar and cut loose on a smokin' "Funnel of Love". I love his wild, unpredictable and clamorous solos, which balanced out the other guitarist's more lucid lines. They did play some twin guitar riffs during their original song about Marie Laveau - not the Bobby Bare classic.

The set covered much of the man's long-lasting career, from "San Antoine" from his debut, to "Sway" (Shadow Dancer) to Memphis Minnie's "Me and My Chauffeur Blues", to a cool, atmospheric "Lady From Shanghai". There was a particularly vicious blues in "Make Me Know You're Mine" and a number of songs from the new record (Command Performance), like "Master of Chaos" and "Jungle Fever".

The full moon seemed especially befitting and while the crowd was small, they were highly exuberant, with people screamin'n'shouting'n'dancin'n'hollerin'. Falco could make a performance out of taking a drink or combing his hair, but excelled with several songs that I had never heard from him - an homage to Alex Chilton (who produced and played with the Burns early on) with the man's "Bangkok" and a great, groovin' song about his hometown of Memphis.They pulled out all the stops for the final numbers, a stomper called "My Mind Was Messed Up At the Time" - with call'n'answer vocals and a fantastic noise/feedback solo - and a dynamic political tune called "Whistle Blower".

No encores, but goddamn, what a show! I wish that I could really put into words the essence of a Panther Burns concert - a mixture of accomplished playing and pure adrenaline madness, swingin' grooves and off-time cacophonous stutterin', superb showmanship, unique banterin' and a true, pure soul of rock'n'roll. So good to know that Tav still has it, though I don't see it ever leavin' him, even once he has shuffled off this mortal coil. This man is the real deal - support him any way you can!

Thank you to the Beauty Bar for bringing this kind of quality to Las Vegas!