45 minutes into the Ike Reilly Assassination’s blistering show at Valentine’s Music Hall last Thursday, Ike announced, “That was the set we are going to play at Lollapalooza on Sunday…and now we are going to play some other shit.” And that is what they did, continuing to please the rather small audience with more of his rapid-fire lyrical tales of losers, druggies, freeloaders, veterans of war and whores. All of this driven by a rootsy but punk-inspired musical attack.
To me, one mark of a truly great live band is that they give it their all, no matter what the circumstances, and that’s exactly what IRA did, giving the light crowd in Albany the same, high-energy, emotional, fist-pumping show that they were going to give to thousands just two days later.
Drawing from all of his half dozen or so albums, Ike stuck mostly to the rocking material with the band supplying even more edge live to such tunes as “7 Come 11,” “Sheet Metal Moon” and the sparkling “Girl’s in the Back Room” from his brilliant new album, “Hard Luck Stories.” He did throw in a few irreverent sing-alongs like “Valentine’s Day in Juarez” and “It’s Alright to Die,” but mostly he kept things on the fly with straight-ahead fury – like the storming version of “When Irish Eyes Are Burning” that the band laid down.
Think Johnny Cash fronting the Clash playing with all the rock & roll swagger that the Stones could muster during their prime. The Dylan influence is there, too, but the musical attack had a much more modern edge then the “Bard.” Ike spits the lyrics out like a street-poet bleeding from the mouth, giving it all an improv feel, but the songs are so well crafted that you know it’s not. Early Springsteen also comes to mind, but the Boss’ “losers” are more often good folks who have come upon hard times. Ike’s characters seem like the real losers of the world, people you cross the street to avoid. And he speaks of them in a much more satirical tone, often including himself amongst their ranks.
When the band finished their last song, Ike staggered through the crowd, making his way to the bar, stopping to shake hands with everyone and thanking them. One “loser” in attendance that evening though had not had enough…
“Where’s My God Damn Medicine,” the loser said as Ike shook his hand.
Loser: “‘The Reformed Church of the Assault Rifle Band’… You gotta play it!”
Ike: “No, the band’s done.” (you could see them offstage toweling off and opening beers)
Loser: “Come on, Ike!”
Ike: “Okay… for you!”
He then made his way back to the stage, gathered up the band and launched into a steamrolling version of the requested song from the new LP. The loser and his lady danced. The band grinned from ear to ear. The people came back up front to soak it all in.
It was one of those great rock & roll moments that the people there will never forget. A band giving it their all!
Review by Tim Livingston
Photograph by Al Goldberg