Eagles of Death Metal, Thelma and the Sleaze
House of Blues
May 18, 2016
I imagine there’s some hesitation or bowel-loosening fear for writers when they claim in a review that a performance was one of the best they’ve ever seen. Because, hey, let’s face it, only so many shows are worthy of such sentiment, and there’s only so much credibility in that statement.
Yet, without hesitation or retentive doubt, I can say — along with several hundred other Houstonians who witnessed the event — Wednesday's Eagles of Death Metal performance was one of the best we've ever seen.
Besides the theatrics of front man Jesse Hughes, a rock and roll personality who cannot be contained onstage, EODM rocked Houston's collective asses off. All the doubts I carried into a midweek show (which wasn't even sold out) quickly dissipated as the band thoroughly educated us on how the beauty of rock can transcend all the bullshit details to deliver the emotional impact that only a performance of this caliber can bring.
Before I elaborate, allow me to give praise where it’s due, first to House of Blues for booking Nashville-based openers Thelma and the Sleaze. These women held their own in a mostly male-dominated room and gained a slew of new fans, judging by all the people pushed near the stage. I won’t discuss the superlative badassery these women embody that my fellow Houston Press writer Jesse Sendejas Jr. already has, so just know if you haven’t heard these women, you’re shy of a new favorite band.
Next, the Eagles of Death Metal went onstage to a collective roar of raised drinks and community joint shares. I had hoped for Baby Duck on drums (Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme), but EODM's lineup is never quite certain from one show to the next; at least it’s always good. Wednesday’s grouping included Jorma Vik (The Bronx) on drums, Matt McJunkins (A Perfect Circle) on bass and Dave Catching (earthlings?) on guitar, plus additional guitarist Eden Galindo for a good part of the show.
Yet, we all know the real star is Jesse Hughes (Boots Electric). Few people can effortlessly command an audience’s attention the way this man does. A consummate showman, Hughes spoke into the mike like a preacher saving souls with the power of rock and roll.
Never mind his overt and endearingly tacky flirting with anyone who dared engage him directly from the audience floor or made eye contact. Hughes's onstage antics can make women — and men — swoon. The magnetism of his sex drive is comically orchestrated and undeniably effective, as witnessed in the couple grinding on each other next to me.
In a fashion that few men can pull off, Hughes made girls gush as he would seductively stare them down, drop his hands from his guitar to take out a hairbrush and adjust his hair to the delight of screaming females. If that wasn’t enough, slowly removing his sunglasses while whipping out a handkerchief had the sex appeal of a striptease. I mean, come on, who else do you know who can make suspenders sexy?
As the band blasted into the first chords of “So Easy,” with Hughes singing “Less talking, Let’s see action, there’s no time to waste, it’s time to make me your man,” the front man strutted and bounced around the stage, shaking his ass to EODM's tight, concise bursts of rock melody.
While blowing kisses to fans, catching the returns and holding them to his heart and even taking a beer from a fan, Hughes was involved with the audience at a level that was beyond friendly. It was intimate, and that openness alone created a conversation between performer and audience so electric and personal that I cannot recall a show ever feeling more familiar.
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I’m not entirely convinced we weren’t all transported to Hughes’s own living room by the power of rock and roll Wednesday. Hughes's fans weren’t shy in their devotion, and neither was his reciprocation. Holding his hand out to the audience, he avoided talk about the Paris attack that killed 89 souls at Paris's Bataclan concert hall last November, but implied what we all knew and felt.
“You guys are beautiful. We needed this. The last few months for us have been weird. We needed to come home and do this.”
And then, Houston was treated to the most incredible encore experience I have ever witnessed at the House of Blues. Hughes returned to a packed crowd, who had refused to leave, to not only play several solo performances, but take requests before inviting his band back onstage. After playing “Cherry Cola” and Duran Duran's “Save a Prayer,” Hughes left the stage for the balcony, where he played some guitar for the adoring fans. Meanwhile, Catching took out a blindfold, wrapped it around his head and played through a solo completely by feel. Every person in that room was on his or her feet in full applause and adoration.
This is the rock and roll magic that EODM are famous for. It lives and breathes in the chest of Hughes…and in Houston. Don’t tell me there’s not a strong music scene in this city, or a lack of appreciation for musicians' talents. I witnessed fans refuse to leave during the multiple-song encore, whose love for this band had people of all races and ages and backgrounds dancing to their guitar noise for hours. This town heard the call of Hughes and the Eagles of Death Metal and answered in the best way Houston knows how: Show up, get loud, get rowdy and dance their asses off.