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Concert Reviews:
MC50 kicks out the jams at Saint Andrews Hall

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2018

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DETROIT -- The Motor City was certainly burning on Friday night, Oct. 26 -- from a visit by a former president to a country superstar at Ford Field, the Detroit Red Wings playing at home and more.

But nowhere was it hotter than in Saint Andrews Hall with MC50.

The all-star troupe formed by MC5 co-founder Wayne Kramer did nothing less than kick out the jams as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the group's seminal debut album, recorded live at the Grande Ballroom on Devil's Night and Halloween of 1968. The hour-and-50-minute show -- which started with that eight-song set played in its front-to-back entirety, including a recording of brother JC Crawford's opening benediction -- more than convincingly recreated the MC5 legendary high-octane energy, albeit with a greater degree of precision from years of experience and the pedigree of players hailing from Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Fugazi, Faith No More and Zen Guerilla.

There were also some surprises, including the main-set closing "Skunk (Sonically Speaking)" and a three-piece horn section for the last five songs of the night. And while the band played, some artists from Los Angeles were creating a clandestine mural on the now-closed Grande Ballroom site depicting the logo of the White Panther Party that the MC5 was affiliated with during the mid- and late-60s.

"Here we go, like only us Detroiters can do," Kramer -- whose American-flag styled Fender Stratocaster got its own ovation when it was brought on stage before the show -- declared as the group shifted from "Ramblin' Rose" into a ferocious "Kick Out the Jams" that had the balcony at Saint Andrews, the spiritual descendent of the Grande, shaking. Dancing and playing with an exuberance that belied his 70 years, the Lincoln Park native was clearly stoked to be bringing his current band back to his home town and duly paid tribute to the other original members of the band, three of whom have passed away. The love was returned from a partisan-packed house (including Detroit-born fashion designer John Varvatos and his son, working on a documentary about punk rock), whose own energy never flagged throughout the 19 songs, hanging on ever note -- even during the epic, experimental tripout of "Starship."

The musicians were what made all the difference in the world in delivering the MC5 canon. Drummers Brendan Canty (Fugazi) and Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) provided powerhouse propulsion, locked in with Faith No More bassist Billy Gould. Kramer and Soundgarden's Kim Thayil piled on the guitar heroics, from the blues of Al Smith's "Motor City is Burning" to the psychedelic tinges of Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything," the breezy pop of "Shakin' Street," the metallic grind of "I Want You Right Now" and the dynamic fury of "Come Together," "Poison" and "Call Me Animal."

Adding to that emotion was the fact it was Thayil and Cameronís first performance back in Detroit since Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell committed suicide at the MGM Grand Casino Hotel after the groupís May 17, 2016 concert at the Fox Theatre.

And Zen Guerilla's Marcus Durant was a revelation, a 6-foot-7 reincarnation of Rob Tyner who nailed all his lead vocals -- including the soulful "Let Me Try" -- played a mean harmonica and executed a few high-altitude knee drops that he probably felt after the show's adrenalin wore off.

The celebration -- or, if you prefer, testimony -- continues with two more shows, on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Fillmore Detroit and on Tuesday, Oct. 30, when a the group will record a new version of "Kick Out the Jams" at Third Man Records. But Friday's show set a mark that will be hard to equal, though it's a safe bet MC50 will surely try.

MC50 performs again Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit Cobras and Easy Action open. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com. The group, joined by Don Was, celebrates Zenta New Year and the 50th anniversary of recording "Kick Out the Jams" on Oct. 30 at Third Man Records, 441 W. Canfield St. $50, proceeds benefit Jail Guitar Doors. Call 313-209-5205 or visit thirdmanrecords.com.

Web Site: www.thefillmoredetroit.com

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