TURBONEGRO @ OGDEN THEATRE | 5/20/13 The familiar feedback leading to the down-strumming guitar intro of "Get It On" drew people to come from the upper areas of the Ogden to join in the pit down front last night. Turbonegro's new lead singer Tony Sylvester, dressed up like some bizarre mix of cop, soldier and S&M fetishist, brought a rougher edge to the band's familiar vocals, and his bombastic stage personality and seeming inability to be embarrassed captured the audience during a fairly straightforward rock and roll show. Fans knew the songs and sang along as though each one was a chant they'd known their whole lives. The sense of excitement was palpable.
Before Turbo took the stage, some kind of classical music played while the band strode on and went right into Ass Cobra's "Just Flesh." Although there weren't too many theatrical stunts involved during the night beyond the stage personas and Sylvester's dramatic (but never overblown) gestures, the multi-colored lights and a backdrop from the cover of Sexual Harassment, composed of day-glo colors, gave the set a sense of heightened reality.
Before each song, Sylvester told kind of funny stories that alluded to the lyrics at first...and all but named them in the end. But the best moments came when Happy-Tom just said crazy things that was obviously intended to be incredibly absurd and not to be taken seriously by anyone with a functioning brain. Before "Dude Without a Face," for example, when Sylvester waxed poetic about what the song was about, Tom just spouted off something about the Zionist Occupation Government in a silly voice. And he wasn't done there: Tom brought up ZOG later in an even more ridiculous context, while riffing off Sylvester in case anyone mistook him for the real white supremacist type.
For "We're Gonna Drop the Atom Bomb," Sylvester changed the city name from Oslo to Denver, as he probably does with every show to make a regional reference. The set proper ended with "Prince of the Rodeo," and the audience didn't wait too long before the band came back up for a rousing "The Age of Pamparius," with its nearly surrealistic lyrics. Nick Oliveri from Dwarves came back up for "Back to Dungaree High," and he and Sylvester expertly played off each other's vocals. During "Turbonegro Must Be Destroyed," Sylvester shared one of the best jokes of the show when he introduced the band and said that in 1973, when Jimmy Page was recording some music in Los Angeles, probably music for the soundtrack of Deathwish or something, Elton John came into the studio, the two had sex, and five months later, guitarist Euroboy was born.
The show ended with an extended, if incomplete, version of "I Got Erection": The band started it, and Sylvester said the show was over because of the curfew. Some people thought he was serious, but he didn't let that fly, and he prompted the crowd to split in two down the middle to sing the chorus while Happy-Tom made a reference to the singer Sade. "Do you know him? The Marquis de Sade?" He, of course, pronounced the "Sade" there like the singer. Before finally getting back to the song, Sylvester called Blag Dahlia back to the stage to join in on the singing as the show ended in high spirits.
Dwarves got the show off to a strong start with songs steeped in punk that were stripped down but bombastic without being sonically excessive. Dahlia looked like Charlie Brown with his yellow shirt if the cartoon character had grown up and developed a wicked but playful sense of humor. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dwarves also brought a non-musician on stage, a figure dancing and moving about wearing a glittery lucha libre mask.
Dahlia strode about the stage with great energy, and the band performed songs from across its career with a momentum and confidence born out of its persona: The band is like a talented rock group with one foot in some psychotic universe that Rob Zombie and Emo Philips seem to be able to tap into as well -- demented and often lurid, but inspired.
Turbonegro Set List at Ogden Theatre, May 20, 2013 1. Just Flesh 2. All My Friends Are Dead 3. You Give Me Worms 4. Sailor Man 5. I Got a Knife 6. Are You Ready (For Some Darkness) 7. Rock Against Ass 8. Mister Sister 9. TNA (The Nihilistic Army) 10. Dude Without a Face 11. Wasted Again 12. We're Gonna Drop the Atom Bomb 13. Fuck the World 14. Get It On 15. Prince of the Rodeo
Encore 16.The Age of Pamparius 17. Back to Dungaree High 18. Turbonegro Must Be Destroyed 19. I Got Erection
Bias: For years, I disliked Turbonegro, but somewhere in the last year or so, I got the joke and what made the band worthwhile s just a great rock and roll band with an off-color sense of humor. Same with The Dwarves.
Random Detail: Ran into Mike Catz and Jay Fox of Crash!, show promoter Brandy Darling, former Pink Swastikas and Mood Syrup frontman Lloyd Arcesia and Alton from Aberrant at the show.
By the Way: New singer Tony Sylvester's first album with the band, 2012's Sexual Harassment, is one of its best records in terms of outrageously hilarious lyrics and Sylvester's raw yet melodic vocals.
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