Lydia Lunch & Retrovirus – The Kings Arms (Concert Review)


Along with her band Retrovirus, Lydia Lunch brought plenty of attitude to The Kings Arms and a performance to justify that attitude. It was, despite the weather, one of the hottest shows of the year…noisy, confrontational, emotional and powerful…the way rock & roll is meant to be.

For a brief time it felt like the fertile post-punk, no wave New York City scene of the late 70s and early 80s had transplanted itself in Auckland. Down the road at The Powerstation, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were doing their thing. Meanwhile guitarist Marc Ribot, who was a member of John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, is set to perform at The Tuning Fork. But, most important, Lydia Lunch and her band Retrovirus were at The Kings Arms.

Lydia became one of the most important figures of the No Wave movement with her first band Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, then with 8-Eyed Spy and her various solo projects and collaborations with the likes of Rowland S Howard, Thurston Moore and many others. Tonight she was playing with guitarist Weasel Walter of the Flying Luttenbachers, bass player Tim Dahl and original Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, who also played with Jon Spencer in Pussy Galore and Boss Hog.

With the Spencer’s show rescheduled to the same night as Lunch’s there was always going to be some splitting up of the audience, but the crowd at The Kings Arms was a decent size none the less. But most important, everyone there seemed very excited to see Lydia and that enthusiasm seemed to be absorbed by the band and reflected back at the crowd.

The show began with the menacing Snakepit Breakdown, a tune that dates back to 1982 but has been revived on the new Retrovirus album, Urge To Kill.Speaking of Urge To Kill, the first lyrics of the night were, “He slits my throat and drinks my blood and says that this just ain’t enough”.

The band sounded tight, with Weasel striking a few ludicrous guitar poses to lighten the mood. Lunch was at her snarling best.

During the next tune, 3 x 3, the sneer in her voice while singing, “Why can’t you see what I’m saying” was pure punk rock. When it ended, she introduced the band and suggested, “Let’s go somewhere else now, shall we?”. That place was the discordant world Mechanical Flattery from Queen Of Siam, which Lunch described as “a nursery rhyme written before half of you were born”. The song’s nightmarish imagery…”I turn around backwards and off slides my face”…making every goth in the house happy.

“It’s so much fun to be me”, Lydia declared after.

Next was, “An homage to my own assassination”, Some Boys (Have The Urge To Kill), which surprised the band, as they were expecting to play Love Split With Blood.  But Lydia decided to “flip the script”.

After Love Split and Dead Me You Beside, the death motif hit closer to home as she paid tribute to her late friend Rowland S Howard, who she described as, “my favourite ghost”, playing Fields Of Fire and Still Burning, but not before calling Rowland’s Birthday Party bandmate Mick Harvey “an asshole” and informing the audience that, “If you don’t think I taught Nick Cave what goth blues are, you better think again, motherfuckers!”.

After Afraid Of Your Company, inspired by serial killer Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez, the bass amp took all this death talk literally and “committed suicide”. During the pause to repair the amp, Lydia took the opportunity to chat to that crowd…”I’ll all for you just looking at me, because I do look good!”

_OS13961But the posturing and attitude was done in good fun. At one point Lunch shared her wine with a fan in the front. Although when she tried to reciprocate with beer, Lydia was having none of it…”No, I don’t drink that shit baby, that’s like, man’s piss. They usually drink my piss”.

The show careened at breakneck speed to the end with a killer version of Alice Cooper’s Black Ju Ju, coupled with The Gospel Singer and wrapping up with Suicide’s Frankie Teardrop.

After a polite, “thank you very much”, Lydia Lunch was gone, leaving the crowd to bask in the glory of what they had just witnessed.  Good God, it was fun!

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Doug Peters:

_OS13645 _OS13649 _OS13651 _OS13659 _OS13661 _OS13662 _OS13669 _OS13679 _OS13696 _OS13702 _OS13709 _OS13722 _OS13727 _OS13742 _OS13747 _OS13754 _OS13755 _OS13759 _OS13762 _OS13764 _OS13777 _OS13782 _OS13785 _OS13797 _OS13805 _OS13818 _OS13822 _OS13825 _OS13827 _OS13828 _OS13832 _OS13833 _OS13834 _OS13839 _OS13847 _OS13849 _OS13884 _OS13918 _OS13926 _OS13929 _OS13946 _OS13952 _OS13959 _OS13961 _OS13969

Lydia Lunch set list:

  1. Snakepit Breakdown
  2. 3 x 3
  3. Mechanical Flattery
  4. Some Boys (Have The Urge To Kill)
  5. Love Split With Blood
  6. Dead Me You Beside
  7. Fields Of Fire
  8. Still Burning
  9. Tied And Twist
  10. Afraid Of Your Company
  11. Black Ju Ju
  12. The Gospel Singer
  13. Frankie Teardrop