Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

The Jesus Lizard at Metro

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FINAL UPDATE: Metro publicist Jenny Lizak reports that while Jesus Lizard singer David Yow bruised his ribs when he hit the floor while crowd-surfing, he didn't break them, and the band's second Chicago show tonight WILL go on. Her full statement can be found in the comments section below.

SECOND UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: From Jesus Lizard publicist Miranda Lange: "There's little info at this point other than he [David Yow] sustained a rib injury while crowd surfing. The show tonight is tentative." More information as soon as it becomes available.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments section below, there are reports of David Yow being more-than-the-usual-bruises banged up when he hit the floor while crowd-surfing during the second encore. Updates are welcome; awaiting official word on his condition from Metro and Jesus Lizard publicity.

One by one, the four members of the reunited Jesus Lizard strolled onstage at Metro Friday night for the first of two triumphant shows, and the applause grew louder as each took his place.

Duane Denison appeared amiable enough as he prepared to wax sinister and ferocious on guitar. Bassist David Wm. Sims spread his legs wide and planted himself on the right, an unyielding anchor for the rhythm section in the face of the coming storm. And Mac McNeilly slid in behind the drums wearing a T-shirt and shorts, looking like a lean and lanky athlete about to run a marathon, which he effectively was.

Finally, the crowd erupted as David Yow sauntered out, hair disheveled as always, thrift-store red shirt hanging over the beer belly protruding from his too-tight blue jeans, the cowboy boots looking innocuous despite his Nevada and Texas roots. "You don't mean it," he taunted the cheering fans. "You're just saying that."

As the group launched into "Puss"--an appropriate choice as one of the best songs from "Liar" (1992) as well as half of the band's split single with another influential and unforgettable group of the alternative era, Nirvana--Yow hurled himself into the crowd, riding atop its upstretched arms throughout the tune, kicking and failing while howling like a man possessed.

"One down, fourteen to go," Yow cracked as the song ended and he finally crawled back onstage. It was as if he'd beaten one assailant and was preparing to take on the rest of the gang.

Anyone who saw the band's first comeback show in its old home town at the Pitchfork Music Festival last July and thought that maybe, just maybe, it had lost a step since it split up in 1999 soon reconsidered. The Jesus Lizard was merely very, very good at Pitchfork, while at Metro, it was once again the greatest band in the world, at least for an hour and a half.

Sure, at age 49, Yow spent a little less time on the floor, in the pit and in the crowd than he did back in the day; an infamous show at the Vic Theatre in the mid-'90s still looms large in legend for him spending almost no time onstage at all. But the intensity was the same as he channeled the waves of energy created by his band mates and the crowd into a performance equal parts deeply disturbing and wildly celebratory.

He was the prisoner let loose from a cell of inconceivable horrors rabidly turning on his former captors. He was the victim screaming incomprehensibly as some alien force took control of body and soul. He was the front man who for 20 years has challenged writers to come up with some metaphor for the gonzo sideshow that, in the end, you really just have to experience.

Drawing heavily from "Goat" (1991) and "Liar"--with "Gladiator," "Seasick," "Then Comes Dudley" and the climactic "7 vs. 8" among the many standouts--the musicians sounded tighter and more self-assured than they did last summer. And they benefited from the confines of Metro as opposed to the baseball field in Union Park; it's much easier to start a controlled riot in a defined space as opposed to a cheery outdoor expanse.

While it might be true that one fan's successful encore is another's nostalgic cash-in, the differences were many and significant between the Jesus Lizard's return and that of its alt-era peers the Pixies earlier this month.

For one, it's easier to forgive the Jesus Lizard its lack of new material since it's on the first round of its reunion jaunt, while the Pixies have been back together but still living in the past for five years now. For another, the Jesus Lizard always was a better live band than the Pixies, who tended to be stilted and static back in the day and are more so now.

Most importantly, though, the Pixies pretty much achieved the fame and the accolades they deserved the first time, while the Jesus Lizard, though wildly popular among its cult following, ended with something left to prove--that for all of the chaos and mania Yow created onstage, there were some brilliant songs and exquisite musicianship at the eye of the hurricane. Now we have the opportunity to appreciate that anew.

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Hope David is OK after he hit the floor!

During the second encore, Yow was crowd-surfing when the crowd support beneath him gave way and he just disappeared. Straight down. Took a while to come back up, too. And when he finally made it back to the stage, he was visibly hurt, not the usual drunken stagger, but a chest-clutching, drunken stagger. Even Duane looked concerned, and that's when you start to worry. Someone called CFD cuz an ambulance arrived and David eventually left the Metro in the back of it. I heard broken rib[s], on the other side of his chest from the collapsed lung a couple years ago. Will they play tonight? Knowing Yow, smart money says yes.
Even if the other guys think he shoudn't, I could see him talking them into it. He's just like that.
I hope he's OK.
What a great set!

Mac (the drummer) came out and spoke with a few fans about David's condition. He said that he's OK, but didn't really elaborate too much. I assume the show is on tonight, but doubt there will be the antics of Friday's show.

Wow. So glad I geeked out and bought tickets for both nights, in case tonight's a no go. David was clearly in real pain.

Hi everyone, thanks for your concern. Thankfully, David is okay, and the show will go on - see below.

For Immediate Release: Jesus Lizard show WILL go on tonight

During last night's encore, Jesus Lizard's David Yow accidentally fell into the floor while crowdsurfing and injured himself. Metro's emergency medical technician treated him at the club immediately. To ensure that his condition was not serious, an ambulance was called and he was taken to a local hospital. After a few hours of observation, doctors thankfully determined that although he does have some bruised ribs, his condition is stable and he is otherwise fine. He was released, is currently resting, and WILL perform tonight.

So, Yow will still "perform" tonight. No throwing himself around, surfing, slamming... sounds "awesome". $60 down the drain. Anyone want a pair?

You ever have severely bruised ribs before, Jim? It's hard enough to breathe, let alone sing for 90 minutes. His dedication to his fans and craft has always been top notch -- one of the best -- but I wouldn't be surprised to see a shortened set list, with the opening acts going longer, to make up the time difference. He is 49 after all, god love him.

How is this band not even halfway appreciated for how good they are? Even an article like this, praising their set and their craft, seems almost timid to admit how good they really are. We're comparing Lizard to the Pixies? More like Lizard to Motown.

I don't know if I can face the show tonight if Smoop won't be there. Kid, if you knew a thing about the Jesus Lizard, you would know that the show would have been cancelled if there was any chance they wouldn't play to potential.

Friday night's show was a thing of beauty. It was like they never stopped playing together all these years. Mac's drum solo to end the primary set was incredible. It certainly brings you back to reality to see Duane & Mac with gray hair but the musicianship is still there and will never go away.

David Yow was a few feet from me when he hit the floor. He nearly cracked his skull in Switzerland in the 90's, I'm sure he was on fire tonight. And if he didn't crowd surf every other song...who can blame the man?

I can't wait to see them in 2020.

Friday night's show was insane!! just like it was in the small clubs I used to see them in (on acid) in the early 90's. I have heard a rumor that they are to release a DVD of Friday/Sat shows.. anyone know anything about this? Me and a friend rode the train up to Chicago from Kansas City, Mo. just to see the Friday night show then rode back on Sat. My body is bruised all over.. the intensity of the band drove everyone into a kinetic frenzy just like I remember from 1993. I was right near Dave when he fell, It didn't appear that he fell super hard being his fall was sort of barley broken from the weak arms underneath but he did land weirdly on his side with his legs aimed sorta upward.
The Jesus Lizard has always been one of my all time favorite bands, especially live!

So there was no drinky for David on Saturday night, just bottled water. And he held court from the barstool that was conspicuously placed center-stage just before the band ambled out. Though he didn't jump into the crowd or get naked [and there wasn't nearly as much gobbing as he did on Friday] he -did- deliver the goods. And Duane, Sims, and Mac seemed to play even more fiercely than Friday as if to try and compensate for Yow's limited mobility. Friday's set was the clear winner for pure entertainment value, for sure. But I bet if you were to listen to tapes of both sets [just audio, no video] the performance on Saturday would easily prove to be the equal. Glad I went both nights. They were flat-out awesome.

I missed Friday and was way worried about Saturday, however no worries once it was all over. Saturday was super explosive, spot on and down right one of the best shows I ever saw. Oh and David made it into the crowd at the end of the first song, the man is a machine, but had that "not doing that again look". He held his side few times and winced, sang from a bar stool for about thirty seconds before kicking it over and charging the crowd. Best frontman ever, even minus the sea surfing it was intense.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on November 28, 2009 8:24 AM.

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