L.A.M.F. 4oth Anniversary – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 30, 2017
There’s a lot of talk about how the Lower East Side is not same as it used to be. Hell, the name of The Bowery Presents hearkens back to the glory days of the late ’70s when a few bands set the town—and the world—ablaze with a new kind of fury that hadn’t been witnessed before. Bands like Ramones, Television and the Patti Smith Group all turned rock and roll in on itself, showing how bloated it had become. This new class would behead bands with 100-piece drum kits and 15-minute flute-driven epics about mystical creatures to bring the genre back to its sneering basics. Punk made the Bowery famous worldwide, and one of its hometown heroes was Johnny Thunders and his band the Heartbreakers. With their seminal trash-rock opus, L.A.M.F., Thunders and his band were probably the most rock and roll out of any of the ’77 class. They stuck to the same basics that had been taught to millions by Chuck Berry while adding some of the era’s reckless abandon. (The band also took advantage of their junk-saturated environment more than their peers, and Thunders passed away in 1991.)
Last year, keeper of the NYC rock flame, Jesse Malin, assembled an all-star tribute to play the L.A.M.F. record in full. Needless to say it was a boozed-up blast. This year marks the album’s 40th anniversary and they pulled out all the stops to do it again at a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. With a lineup of original Heartbreaker guitarist Walter Lure, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock and Social Distortion singer-guitarist Mike Ness, the band ripped through the full LP, trading off vocal duties throughout. Malin (who also opened the show) joined them for a few numbers but seemed to know his place and cleared the stage so these punk legends could hold court.
The band was loose and some numbers ended in charmingly sloppy ways. You could tell this was getting Burke a little agitated, but in defense of the Heartbreakers’ reckless spirit, Ness said that no one cared if the songs came out perfect. The band left the stage once they completed the album and came back to do an encore of Heartbreakers rarities and even a couple of Thunders solo tunes. Malin returned to sing “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” from So Alone, and Ness took on that album’s slow-brooding title track immediately afterward. The show ended with Lure singing the Heartbreakers song “Too Much Junky Business.” It was a great night that transported everyone to a more dangerous and unpredictable era of rock and roll. —Pat King | @MrPatKing