Anniversary tours are certainly not a new occurrence in the live music world. This especially rings true today, where the most sought after tickets often consist of nostalgic rock acts touring behind the 40+ anniversary of their once-hit album or behind the curtain of a “farewell” tour. These things always seem to garner the same reaction of surprise that band of that age is still capable of going out there and putting on a show, or what’s more, that a band of that age would still want to go out there.
When dealing with the jet-setting extravagance of a Rolling Stones tour that pockets over $10 million a night, these decisions aren’t very difficult to comprehend. But when dealing with the few 60+ year-old acts still pumping the gas in their van in order to make it to the next couple-hundred person club, it’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder where the motivation comes from.
Back in October, when Los Angeles punk band, Fear, announced a four-date Texas run in celebration of their 40th anniversary, this was likely the reaction of many familiar with the band in their late-'70s/early-’80s heyday. After all, this is a group that earned their legendary status by means of a confrontational stage show, their angst-ridden attitude, and an overall sense of chaos attached to their name—not exactly a form of entertainment built for 40 years.
Yet when seeing famed frontman Lee Ving in action like he was on Wednesday night, it’s clear this isn’t your everyday 68-year-old rocker going through the motions in order to pick up a paycheck at the end of the night. Rather, Ving and his band showed out to be a group still very capable of hitting their musical mark, still with a lot to say, and still with plenty of good times to dish out.
The band, which included original member Spit Stix (drums) for one of the few times since their early-'90s falling out, came out early with thrashers like “More Beer” and “Fuck You, Let’s Rodeo.” From the first “1234” on, the crowd was hit with Ving’s commander-like vocal delivery, which somehow hasn’t lost the signature rasp evident in those early records. Even Ving’s chatter between songs carried with it a certain sense of authority that let everyone in attendance know that he’s still the boss 40 years later.
Another surprising aspect made clear early on was drummer Spit Stix’s ability to stay true to the ferocious tempo of the band’s catalog. Songs like “No More Nothing” are built around power chords, with Ving’s voice and presence expected to do the rest. However, with Stix there to push these songs forward, each song lived up to the level of intensity expected of it.
As with any punk show, few songs went over the two-minute mark, making for a rapid fire set that built with each offering. What these short song structures also allowed for was a chance for the band to run through each of their many fan-favorites. With widely-known anthems like “I Love Livin’ in the City,” and “I Don’t Care About You,” the sizable Houston crowd launched into a frenzy, where the few mohawks in attendance could be seen bouncing around the mosh-pit as they shouted their “Fuck You’s!” right back at Ving—a common gesture for anyone familiar with a Fear show.
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When the night reached "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones," it was impossible not to think back to band’s infamous 1981 performance of the songs on Saturday Night Live. Due to accompanying slam-dancers (and pumpkin smashing), that Halloween night performance resulted in thousands of dollars of damage to the SNL set, an SNL ban, and easily one of the greatest moments in live-television history.
Though Ving and his crew may no longer be physically capable of recapturing the theatrics of that wild performance, the musicality and vocal performance of Wednesday night’s versions gave the crowd just enough emotion to feed off of, which in the end encapsulates why exactly Fear are still out there doing it, and why people of all ages are still showing up.
Despite the toned down physicality of their once machismo-dominated live show, the music of Fear still carries with it enough intensity to inflict a sense of nostalgia for longtime fans, as well as a sense of respect for those experiencing it for the first time. This effect was clear throughout Wednesday night, where the crowd’s level of engagement never once let up. What was also made clear was the amount of fun that Ving was still having up there 40 years later, still shouting about suburban scumbags and a house full of puke. In terms of motivation, what more is needed from a guy who has dedicated his life to punk rock?