Suicidal Tendencies - Live at the Olympic Auditorium
2010 Fontana Distribution
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Suicidal Tendencies never wholly received the grace of forgiveness bands such as D.R.I., Gang Green and Broken Bones were extended as punk crossover acts. While the latter bands were celebrated and championed by metal historians (in D.R.I.'s case, lovingly praised for inadvertently dubbing the word "crossover" via their thrash album bearing the same name), Suicidal Tendencies were nailed to the cross for about-facing into their surf and slam modes during the late eighties.
Push to shove, the speed metal incarnation of Suicidal, which featured fan favorite shredder Rocky George and eventually future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, was actually the most proficient of all the crossover groups. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...When I Can't Even Smile Today remains Suicidal's masterwork from their metallic era, even if that album cost the band a lot of cred in the eyes of the skate punks who nurtured the band with their loyalty.
After scoring big with Lights...Camera...Revolution, it was the adventurous and brazen The Art of Rebellion which found Mike Muir and company exposing themselves at the roots. Sadly, they were promptly faced with the backs of their newly-won thrash horde, which abandoned Suicidal's army and joined ranks with the original punkers Suicidal first staked their reputations with.
Despite the peculiar and sometimes blazing career path Suicidal Tendencies found themselves upon, once you cut the cloth, tip up the cap brim and tie on the swag, this is a punk band deep in its heart and soul. It's taken a veritable collapse of favor and a lot industry dissing upon the shoulers of Muir (who went deep underground for a long time) for the name of Suicidal Tendencies to be spoken reverentially again.
At this time, the lineup continues to be shaken up as Mike Muir remains the lone wolf from the lineup recording Suicidal Tendencies' quintessential 1983 self-titled album. The man with the most tenure in Suicidal besides Muir is rhythm guitarist Mike Clark, and here is where we find the group in their first-ever DVD Live at the Olympic Auditorium.
It took a special moment to lure Muir and his refurbished punk unit out of the shadows. In this case, the one-time punk haven Olympic Auditorium had been sold to a Korean church and Suicidal agreed (after many previous show rejections) to play the venue's final show. Hence this moment captured for posterity with an excitable Mike Muir slinking and cutting from side-to-side onstage as he's always done in the midst of a punk-hospitable venue witnessing its final moments.
Closing the doors of the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles with a stripped and dirtied hardcore revision of Suicidal Tendencies is one for the history books. Considering Suicidal had long been banned from playing in L.A. (having been accused of being gangbangers even before such lingo was spun), you have to appreciate the irony of seeing them finish a chapter of the city's underground.
It would've been truly fitting to have Louiche Mayorga, Grant Estes and Amery Smith help savor the butter, so to speak, however, give Muir's 2005 stable a hand for putting on an appropriately rowdy and punk-oriented performance. Even when dipping into the metal catalog of Suicidal Tendencies with "Waking the Dead," "Won't Fall in Love Today" and "Pledge Your Allegiance," there's no flash or meaty chugs, only streamlined downpicking to accompany the flighty, whirlwind tempos replicant of the Suicidal Tendencies era.
Much of the set on Live at the Olympic Auditorium is corralled from the pivotal debut album via "I Shot Reagan," "I Saw Your Mommy," "Suicidal Failure," "Subliminal," "Two Sided Politics" and their manic fantastic calling card, "Institutionalized." Added to the fun is "Possessed to Skate" and "War Inside My Head," the two best cuts from Suicidal's frequently-maligned Join the Army album from 1987.
As he's done throughout his tenure leading Suicidal, Mike Muir chants, recites and proseltyzes in-between songs, but soon enough, Steve Bruner is slapping some mad bass to issue random downhome funk lines amidst the chaos. Dean Pleasants scorches his frets as quickly as Dave Hidalgo (recently replaced by Eric Moore of Muir's longtime side project Infectious Grooves) can beat down the skate rat tempos which forged this band from the beginning.
Though the track listing on the DVD case omits the always-hilarious "Send Me Your Money" from Lights...Camera...Revolution! it's even funnier this time as the rhythm is deliberately scaled a click in some sections, upped in others, keeping it street instead of slick. Thus a polished metal jam from 1990 gets reinvented with a greasier punk tweak ala 1984.
Fans of Suicidal Tendencies from the start are going to feel a sense of relief watching Live at the Olympic Auditorium. For all they might've perceived to have suffered as Suicidal explored every opportunity for growth they could, this one's shot right to the do-ragged domes of the old league. Though some may scoff at Muir for constantly jabbering about being punk, he does slip in an admission of guilt before his audience; without using the exact words, he's branding himself a one-time sellout who needed a cocooning phase to get real. Maybe a case of too much self-flogging, but the payout Muir serves up as penance is a remember-when moment as Suicidal Tendencies swirls back into their whirlpools of skate 'core.
The behind-the-scenes story to this show is even more disruptive when you consider Muir found himself practically paralyzed right before this concert transpired. Postponing back surgery to make the event, Muir's capacity to roam and prowl all over the stage with 4000 fans in front of him and a gallery of photogs and fans poised directly behind the band (many who dart past him without warning for stage dives) is pretty damned inspirational. You have to cheer he gave his all for a noble cause in this bittersweet matter...
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Suicidal Tendencies - Live at the Olympic Auditorium