Punk-rock survivor John Doe plays solo at Outpost in the Burbs

John Doe performs at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair on Nov. 5.


John Doe performed at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair on Nov. 5.

“This song’s never gonna get old,” said John Doe, while introducing the song “The New World,” Nov. 5 at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. (see video below). Indeed, the song — which Doe’s punk-rock band X recorded more than 30 years ago, on its More Fun in the New World album — has never seemed more timely.

In it, a bum whines, on Election Day, that the bars are closed, and goes on to complain: “Honest to goodness, the tears have been falling all over this country’s face/It was better before, before they voted for what’s-his-name/This is supposed to be the new world.”

Doe introduced the song by talking about this year’s “farce of an election” and saying, “I think it’s a sign of the country getting older. Our politics are turning into Italy’s politics.” And he ended it with a single line from The Beatles’ “Revolution”: “You say you want a revolution/Well, you know, we’d all love to see a plan.”

The show as a whole proved that Doe — now 63 and far removed from punk’s glory days — has aged as well as “The New World” did. X, one of the leading bands in the Los Angeles punk-rock scene of the late ’70s and ’80s (and a band that still reconvenes, occasionally, for reunion shows), was designed to get under your skin, and shake you up. As a solo artist — his 11th album, The Westerner, came out in April — Doe has a gentler, warmer presence, and his music is more directly connected to blues and country music.

He performed solo at the Outpost (with roughly the first half of the set acoustic, then the second half electric), reaching back to X’s catalog, at times, for songs such as “Burning House of Love,” “Poor Girl” and “See How We Are,” in addition to “The New World.” But he emphasized solo material, including compassionate, character-driven songs such as “Twin Brother” and “Sweet Reward.”

Warren Zanes, left, with John Doe at the Outpost in the Burbs.


Warren Zanes, left, with John Doe at the Outpost in the Burbs.

Covers included straightforward takes on the George Jones hit “I Always Get Lucky With You” (co-written by Merle Haggard) and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” as well as “Take #52,” a thorny love song written by his X bandmate and ex-wife, Exene Cervenka.

The show’s opening act was Warren Zanes, a former member of the Boston-based garage-rock band The Del Fuegos who now performs solo and also has distinguished himself as a writer (most recently, of the Tom Petty book “Petty: The Biographer”). He also happens to live in Montclair.

Accompanying himself on guitar, he was a good complement to Doe, with similarly well-crafted songs that had, perhaps, slightly more pop-oriented melodies, and were slightly more autobiographical. (The divorced and newly remarried Zanes bounced back and forth between breakup songs and “new love” songs.)

X and The Del Fuegos did some shows together way back when, in the ’80s. Doe recalled, I assume with some exaggeration, “a drunken brawl most nights.”

Zanes says he used to watch X and think, “How could people be so into R.E.M. when X is there?”

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