I spent some time when I returned home from seeing the Reverend Horton Heat play live at the Marquee Theatre Tuesday night, August 17, trying to figure out just how many times I have seen the band play. The first time was a jaw-dropping set at The Jar in support of their first album, Smoke Em’ If You Got Em’. Since then I can recall shows opening for Soundgarden at Mesa Amphitheatre and White Zombie at the Civic Plaza, plus 5-7 shows as a headliner, including concerts at Gibsons and Hayden Square Amphitheatre. I say 5-7 because I have seen the band so many times I honestly cannot remember all the different venues! It had been a while though, as I do know the last time I saw the Reverend in concert was either 2002 or 2003 in support of the Lucky 7 album at the Cajun House/Venue of Scottsdale (I can’t remember what the name was back then). One thing remains the same; the Reverend Horton Heat continues to deliver one of the most blistering, intense sets of any performer around today!
If you have not had an opportunity to see the Reverend Horton Heat in concert before I really do feel for you. This trio has been around for 25+ years now and released ten outstanding studio albums. The Reverend plays one heck of a mix of rock and roll, country, rockabilly and a splash of some of the finer aesthetics of punk rock. The term “psychobilly” has been used for years to characterize the Reverend’s sound. I just think of them as a great rock and roll band.
Guitarist/vocalist Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath and Jimbo Wallace on the stand-up bass have been the two mainstays in the band, the Reverend since 1985 and Jimbo since 1989. Current drummer Paul Simmons has been with the band since 2006.
Folks, this writer would have to call the audience on this evening a small crowd, far below the number that this incredible band deserves. Yes it’s August, yes it was a school/work night, yes it was raining. Quit being sissies people. As much as I hate Sound Strike and the idea of any good band not playing in Arizona, I really cannot blame an artist for not coming here because of the piss-poor crowds that often times show up for concerts.
I digress. There are a lot of bands out there that like to pose and screw around too much when playing a show. That has never been the case with the Reverend Horton Heat. At 10:20pm the Reverend strode onstage and dove into the lead track “Bullet” from their debut album on Sub Pop Records, Smoke Em’ If You Got Em’. Seriously, old-school Reverend from the get-go?! As if that was not enough of an indicator of what an amazing show this was about to be, they followed things up with the second track from that album, and one of my all-time favorite songs from the Reverend Horton Heat, “I’m Mad”!
It is rare for a band to be this consistent, but I can honestly say I have never seen a poor performance from the Reverend. These guys tour relentlessly and always deliver. Jim Heath mentioned during the show he was sick and running a temperature of about 103. He very easily could have cancelled the show, but that is how this band works. The Reverend Horton Heat has always made a point of putting the fans and the music first. Jim Heath was a monster on the axe as always, coupled with that very cool vocal delivery of his. He remains one of my favorite guitar players, rivaling anybody on the rock, blues, rockabilly and punk scenes. Jimbo plays one of the meanest stand-up basses and is the perfect complement to Heath, while Simmons is powerful on the skins. It was my first time seeing him play as part of the band.
The Reverend played four songs in the middle of the set from his 10th studio album Laughin’ And Cryin’ With The Reverend Horton Heat. I was really impressed with the newer songs and loved the Reverend’s story behind “Ain’t No Saguaro In Texas”. But as a fan of the trio from Texas for almost 20 years now, the inclusion of a plethora of older material that I recognized by name was awesome. I counted three songs from Smoke Em’ If You Got Em’ and The Full Custom Gospel Sounds Of The Reverend Horton Heat (albums one and two), two from Liquor In The Front and It’s Martini Time (albums three and four), and one each from Space Heater, Spend A Night In The Box and Lucky 7 (albums five through seven). What a great selection of killer tunes from the band’s entire catalog!
It was great to see a lot of the things I have come to expect during a Reverend concert in addition to the phenomenal music and delivery. Jimbo laid down his bass and the Reverend stood on top of it during one guitar solo (I believe during “The Devil’s Chasing Me”) and they ended with a blistering version of “Big Red Rocket Of Love”. Whether playing a country based tune like “Bales Of Cocaine” (a great crowd sing-a-long every time it is played), a thunderous instrumental such as “Psychobilly Freakout”, rockabilly on a tune like “Spend A Night In The Box” or an ultra-frenetic song that inspires a mosh pit like “Galaxy 500”, the Reverend Horton Heat can play well to any type of fan.
By the way, if you mosh at a Reverend show you’re a fricken jackass. Seriously. Grow up, or go home and listen to your sissy-punk or emo records.
Here is the set list for the concert … I think. Keep in mind I did not write any of this down during the show, but to my recollection this is how things went on this evening. The song titles of the older tunes that I know by name are definite; luckily the Reverend introduced songs ten and eleven by name since they are newer tunes.
- I’m Mad
- 400 Bucks
- The Devil’s Chasing Me
- Big Sky
- Baddest of the Bad
- It’s Martini Time
- Ain’t No Saguaro In Texas
- Drinkin’ And Smokin’ Cigarettes
- Jimbo Song
- Spend a Night in the Box
- Galaxy 500
- Psychobilly Freakout
- Bales of Cocaine
- Big Red Rocket of Love
What a show! Many thank to the Reverend Horton Heat for another great night of entertainment! Too many years had gone by since I saw them play last. Mental note to self – never again!