“That was so fucking good,” David Yow said after the Jesus Lizard blistered through “Fly On the Wall.” “You are the luckiest people in the United States tonight.”
Nobody at last night’s sold-out Irving Plaza show was about to argue. The band’s first New York appearance in eight years– the third of six reunion shows– proved exactly why they were considered one of the Lollapalooza era’s best live acts.
This was a huge relief to anyone who had read last week’s Wall Street Journal article about the 57-year-old Yow’s pre-tour gym routine. That story’s sad-sack headline: “An Aging Punk Star’s Dilemma: Am I Too Old to Stage Dive?”
As if to offer a reassuring answer to that question, Yow lept into the crowd even before the first song began. There was chortling from the audience—mostly beefy, bearded dudes dressed in black— as he was hoisted up. And with that, his bandmates launched right into “Puss,” the track that shared a split single with Nirvana in 1993.
The Lizard proceeded to tear through 23 songs, playing three to five numbers off of each of their first five studio albums. (Their 1998 LP, Blue, recorded after the departure of drummer Mac McNeilly, was the only one that didn’t get play.)
Actually, there was little doubt that Yow would stage-dive; he did plenty of crowd-surfing when he fronted a Flipper reunion show at the Acheron two years ago. The real question: Was He Too Old to Get Naked? For better or worse, he never did shed his striped button-down– much less go fully frontal, as he did at Saturday’s Chicago show. Nor he did he engage in the pyrotechnic shenanigans that he described at a 2014 appearance at Word, in support of the Jesus Lizard book.
But he did show some of the juvenile humor evident in his book of cat puns. Right off the bat, he warned the audience, “I’ve got diarrhea,” and made a couple more mentions of it as the night went on. Yow’s apparent cure for the malady: Modelo beers, chugged from the bottle. Oh, and spitting. Lots of spitting.
Yow’s antics aside, one of the highlights of a Jesus Lizard show is getting absolutely pummeled by the rhythm section. Bassist David Wm. Sims, now a CPA in New York, and drummer Mac McNeilly, who lives in Evanston, Ill., were in stone-faced lock-step as Nashville-based guitarist Duane Denison laid on the jangly fuzz. At one point, Yow dedicated the propulsive “Killer McHann” to “a lil’ feller named Dashiell Sims,” presumably referring to the bassist’s young son. McNeilly got his turn in the spotlight toward the end of the show, with a thunderous drum solo. It all made you wonder why the Journal hadn’t written about their workout routines.
A couple of times, Yow mocked the rock-and-roll stagecraft of legacy acts. “I know this is a real cliché of rock and roll, sort of a Kiss or Styx cliché thing,” he said before asking if anybody in the audience was an amputee. The folks behind me excitedly raised their hands because they apparently knew one, but the band had already launched into “Nub.”
Later, before one of the band’s two encores, Yow lamented, “If we knew more songs we would just play till old Mr. Sun comes up. David can play ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd.” A four-hour “Dazed and Confused” jam was also suggested, but in the end the band decided to leave it at 90 minutes of its own songs.
Yow’s parting word: “Diarrhea.”