Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 14, 2001
Curt Kirkwood @ Cactus CafeSeptember 6
The Brothers Johnson notwithstanding, Curt Kirkwood is all about stomp. Bounding onto the Cactus Cafe's red-velvet stage with a matching red Gibson acoustic guitar at precisely 9:15pm, no opener, the SSToried punk rocker/Meat Puppet/Austin transplant looked both happy to be there and vaguely ill at ease. Like perhaps he hadn't played out live in a while, let alone all by his lonesome. Plodding through a "strangely familiar" opener, follow-up and Meat Puppets II staple "Lost" soon had the full house hooting happily. "Ah," smiled Kirkwood. "That's nice of you." This brought a laugh. "You could say anything in here and it'd be funny," noted one of the most gifted, unique songwriters of the American post-punk movement of the early-Eighties, still tuning. "Don't forget the magic worm they're selling on street." Well, almost anything. When he began the next song, that's when the stomping started, Kirkwood going into leaden marionette mode and staggering about the stage like he'd been injected with Re-Animator coolant. It didn't help much, most ensuing selections much less animated than their charismatic author. No automatic mojo here. That the 45-minute first set was dominated by new material not nearly as dysfunctionally tuneful as some of his best work, was doubtless the cause, but then even a chestnut like "Flaming Heart" from Too High to Die sounded warmed over. "I'm trying to work some of these songs out," he apologized at one point. Lumbering, head-banging, hopping, nothing helped, even set-ender "Plateau," drenched in feedback, was strangely unaffecting. The exact opposite could be said of the second set, which found Kirkwood replicating past Cactus gigs with scary talent and verve. "Up on the Sun," featuring a small sampling of Kirkwood's outrageously nimble and dexterous guitar work, was an obvious launching point, buttressed by a wistful reading of "Shine," and a typically playful version of Paul Leary's "The Adventures of Pee Pee the Sailor." Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Stud" may have broken the spell of Kirkwood's original, hallucinatory songcraft, but it stomped nonetheless. The requested "Touchdown King" came off a tad unsure, but the jigsaw guitar solo was flat-out wicked. "Evil Love," stomping. Dirge of the last decade "Lake of Fire," stomping. Set closer "Ballad of the Green Berets," stomping and clapping. Leave it onstage and down-on-your-knees encore, "Cotton Candy Land," "Down the Road Apiece," and "Backwater"? You guessed it. A veritable, fucking stampede.