For a few brief hours the rain stopped on a dreary Thursday night as many young San Franciscans and I headed into the Tenderloin for the Black Lips at The Great American Music Hall co-presented by KUSF. The line in front of the venue had a mix of twenty something hipsters, yuppies, forty year olds and teens all waiting to see what antics the Lips would pull on stage. The band is known for not just their music, but also their performance which historically involved onstage vomiting, kissing, peeing, racing slot cars and even bringing live chickens to their shows.
Many fans heard about The Black Lip’s last tour to India (during which the band was kicked out of the country after singer Cole Alexander pulled down his pants and started grinding on his guitar in front of a young Indian audience) and were excited to see how much more extreme the band could get back in the US. Unfortunately for those waiting to see barf and blood cover the stage, the Lips played a PG rated set of old favorites and newer material from their latest release “200 Million Thousand” that was released last year on Vice records.
Aside from one brief lip locking kiss between guitarist Alexander and bassist Jared Swilley, the show was an average rock show with a mosh pit, dance tunes and a sing a long of the band’s popular track “Bad Kids.” When the band asked what the sold out crowd wanted to hear there were shouts for their indie radio hit “Veni Vidi Veci.” “We don’t know how to play that one!” said Alexander. Then he drove straight into the shows finale with their old favorite “Bow Down and Die.”
Outside of the Great American Music Hall kids said that the band had played a good show, but it just didn’t have the magic that older Lips shows had. They missed the chaos where you could barley make out what song was being played but you would be too busy laughing or crying to care.
Although the nude and lewd antics of The Black Lips’ set lists may be gone, the band is back with a new outlook on live performance and a newfound focus on their music.