After not being able to see them when they played the TLA here in Philadelphia back in 2008 and after they skipped over Philly last year, we decided to make sure not to miss Swervedriver again and bought tickets for this show. It turned out that they added a show in Philly after all that was a few nights before this one (it was the opening night of the tour, in fact), but that didn’t make me look forward to seeing this great band for the first time any less.
Simply put, from the first note of opening stunner “Last Train to Satansville” (from 1993’s Mezcal Head), Swervedriver dominated. A sonic tour de force dominated by vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and tour fill-in drummer Mikey Jones (who did a TREMENDOUS job filling in for Graham Bonnar, who played with them last year but couldn’t play on this tour) and augmented nicely by guitarist Jimmy Hartridge and bassist Steve George, most of this show saw Swervedriver stick to the raw, guttural, heavy punch of its first two Lps (1991’s Raise and the aforementioned Mezcal Head). In addition to absolutely smashing versions of Raise-era singles like “Sandblasted,” “Son of Mustang Ford” and Rave Down”, we also got deep cuts like “Deep Seat,” “Pile Up” and even the B-side “Scrawl and Scream”. Mezcal Head was represented by a pile-driving version of “Never Lose That Feeling” along with “Girl on a Motorbike” (the first song played in the encore) and set closer “Duel”. There were only several songs played from later albums (the best of which was a stunning version of Ejector Seat Reservation‘s “Son of Jaguar E”) and “The Birds” (the finest song in their catalog, at least in this writer’s estimation) didn’t work quite as well as some of the other, earlier, fiercer material.
The other surprises were a terrific version of Guided by Voices‘ “Motor Away” (appropriate for Swervedriver because of the automotive theme) and a superb version of new song “Deep Wound” that blew away the version they played on the Jimmy Fallon show a few nights earlier. If the rest of their proposed new album will be as good as this tune, then I’m already looking forward to it! It should be noted that Franklin was playing so hard that blood (apparently from an untreated blister) got on his Jazzmaster guitar and was visible. That’s dedication!
Openers Heaven warmed the crowd up nicely for the headliners by playing a set that hearkened back to Swervedriver’s early to mid ’90s heyday and reminded me of bands like Ride, The Jesus and Mary Chain and even early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
All of the above photos were taken by Mark Suppanz and are used with permission. Check out his review of the same show here.