EXTRA!!! EXTRA!!! Rock and Roll is NOT Dead!!

New Bomb Turks
with the Spitfires
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Sunday, May 17, 1998

Review by Michael O'Donahue
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

[ed. Photographs are on their way... ]

I knew something was up, that afternoon, when we discovered the alarming fact that nobody had any tickets left for this show. I had an inkling that tonight was to be an Event. Luckily, there were still a few tickets left at the door before the show, so all was not lost. Good thing, too, as this was exactly the sort of show you kick yourself for missing the next day when all your friends call up to say "You shoulda bin there, maaan." And early on a Sunday night, no less.

Charged with the task of Warming Us Up were Vancouver's Spitfires, a four-piece punk rock outfit. Their riffs are all pretty recycled sounding -- bits of New York Dolls, Rocket from the Crypt and the Turks themselves -- although played with enough zip and conviction that it didn't really matter. The bass, drums and guitar all sounded great, but what lets the band down is the singer. He can't sing -- which is fine because of course none of the greats can, either -- but his contrived rock and roll attitude, plus spitting and splashing his drinks on the audience, came across as pretty lame. An attempt by a man who is not the Real Thing.

Eric Davidson, the New Bomb Turks' rabid frontman, is the Real Thing, however. A natural, born to Rock. I've never seen anyone with so much ability to whip people into a frenzy. With his freakish mannerisms and endless reserves of phychotic energy, it's virtually impossible to not watch him. And even harder not to like him. The difference between someone like him and someone like the Spitfires' singer is the unforced naturalness of it all. Davidson really comes across as crazy, as opposed to desperately obnoxious. He knows you're going to love him, because how could you not?

Careening across the stage, standing on the crowd control barrier, beckoning everyone to come up front and Join the Party, stealing hats and passing the mic around for whoever wants a turn screaming. Huge charisma and not a smidge of worry about whether or not anyone will like him. Plus, he's got a wicked voice -- complete with a full compliment of perfect whoohoos, aaiowwws and yeahs -- and writes great lyrics. He makes connecting with the audience seem so natural and easy, grabbing heads and hats, slapping himself silly and sticking his head in front of every speaker and drum. The man is really and truly Into It. How rare is that?

The band is every bit as great as their singer. Jesus, these guys rock. How Jim Weber can get such a huge sound out that weeny little Fender amp of his is beyond me. Great songs, massive sound and boundless energy. It all seems so easy, so why isn't everyone this good?

A solid hour and a half of non-stop Act of God, Hide the Breakables Rock and Roll. Loud, furious, catchy and threatening to go spinning out of control at any moment. They came close a couple times, too, when the momentum threatened to overcome the musicianship. But, the band always managed to pull it back just at the brink of total train wreck demolition. Reserved West Coast Canadian that I am, even I was turning to those around me and saying things like " YYYEEESSS!!!" and " DO THE WORDS HOLY SHIT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?!"

Wow. Rarely does a band Rock quite this hard. Seeing the Stooges circa Raw Power must have been like this. Rarely does a Vancouver audience go this mental on a Sunday night. A sea of Smiling Faces because somewhere out there are bands like the New Bomb Turks who know what it means to Rock. To use a tired cliché, if you looked up "Let 'er Rip" in the dictionary...


First published in Drop-D Magazine on June 16, 1998

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