L7 Came Back To Bitch: Live At First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 4.19.18
Nostalgia is nostalgia, and it is fine if that is all you need. Rock and roll is forever, though, and it was clear the moment L7 took the First Avenue main stage that this band gets that shit right.
Being nostalgic is okay. The band burned out around the turn of the century, leaving behind a late 80s – 90s legacy of pushed buttons and medium to big hits. We all missed them, but L7 is back with new music, though, and a wicked sense of humor and purpose.
L7 walked on to Prince’s “Pussy Control,” and lurched into “Deathwish” from Smell the Magic with a ferocity and a glorious noise that put the full crowd on notice: your asses will be rocked. Transitioning to the album for which the band is most famous, Bricks Are Heavy, L7 told the crowd about their inner “Monster,” and ripped this reporter’s favorite song, “Everglade.”
“You know what is so rad?” Singer/guitarist Donita Sparks asked. “Our star is still out there.”
Referring to the musicians’ stars painted on the outside of the club, Sparks recalled their early days playing in the smaller venue at First Avenue, the Entry, before graduating to the Mainroom.
It was one slab of sludgy punk after another. Were there technical difficulties? Sure. Guitarist/singer, Suzi Gardner was sick, and her voice was shredded, but guess what? Everything that mattered worked exactly as it should.
“Fuel My Fire” was a mission statement, among many, many mission statements. The crowd was whipped up pretty quickly, celebrating these conquering heroes.
L7 slowed things down to a dead sexy, luxurious pace for the Jennifer Finch (bass) led “One More Thing.” Not a ballad at all, it’s the punkest bubble bath you ever eased yourself into, and L7 killed it.
After the almost power pop romp of “Off The Wagon” from Triple Platinum: The Beauty Process, the band oozed back into the swamp for the fast ride of “Slide.”
Gardner stepped up to the mic for a thudding, chugging “Must Have More,” her virus-wrecked vocal chords adding to the overall apocalyptic tone.
At some point there were sound problems, and a handful of roadies swarmed around Sparks, leading her to joke, “It takes a village, a village of handsome men…”
Sparks also reiterated a familiar theme, if you happened to read my interview with her, about why L7 came back now.
“I came back to bitch!” she said, launching into the new track of the same name.
It’s a hell of a track, too, playfully spitting venom, “you’re just not that hot of a shit, but you got a lot of it,” over a thundering backbone courtesy of drummer Dee Plakas.
If there was any doubt whether L7 was back for blood in 2018, “I Came Back To Bitch” and “Dispatch From Mar-A-Lago” are the hammers your brain needs.
Finishing off their main set with “Shirley” and “Shitlist” pretty much wrecked the crowd. There was hopping, there was screaming, there were oldsters moshing.
“Shirley,” a song about drag racer Shirley Muldowney, had piped-in drag racing sounds, and a snippet of an interview that says it all:
“What’s beautiful girl like you doing racing in a place like this?”
“Shitlist” is self-explanatory. It is “Shitlist,” and it is the sort of therapy by way of imagined destruction and real bile that a lot of us are finding we need in these strange times.
After a brief intermission, L7 came back to encore with their biggest hit, “Pretend We’re Dead,” as well their old, hilarious basher, “Fast And Frightening.” The last song is “Cherry Bomb” times a gagillion, and it wasn’t delivered by women in their 50s. No, it was a timeless statement of rebellion by a band that is back and ready to rumble.
Postscript: If you are looking for a detailed look into L7’s past, do yourself a favor and check out the documentary L7: Pretend We’re Dead. Buy it or pay to stream it on Hulu or Amazon Prime. If you are interested in their future, they have a new album on the way, and you can be part of it!
Fuel My Fire
One More Thing
Off The Wagon
Must Have More
I Came Back To Bitch
Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago
Bloodstains (Agent Orange cover)
Pretend We’re Dead
Fast And Frightening
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Don Giovanni Records/Girlie Action.
All Other Images Courtesy of Chad Werner.