The third time was the charm for Mike Watt and the Missingmen Thursday night upstairs at Valentine’s.
The legendary punk bassist of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame restarted the full performance of his third rock opera, “Hyphenated-Man,” twice before finally barreling through it in its entirety. Each time was due to Tom Watson breaking a guitar string — the first time early on in the 30-part epic, during “Beak-Holding-Letter-Man”; the second time eight songs into it. And each time, Watt, ever the perfectionist, insisted upon trying again.
It was a good thing he did — the piece absolutely needs to be heard as a whole, and in a live setting, to get the full effect. The recording, which is indeed great, lacks the dynamics, the power, the sweat and the fury of the Missingmen live show. The tense interplay between Watson’s snarling guitar and drummer Raul Morales’ thundering precision beats, with Watt’s gruff baritone and popping bass anchoring everything, made this material come alive, and the nearly full house was appreciative of every note.
Watt and company sure had their work cut out for them this night, and delivered a top-notch performance despite some daunting obstacles. Besides uncooperative guitar strings, Watt competed with the downstairs show and the venue’s air ventilation system during some of the piece’s whisper-quiet moments — he flipped the bird at the floor during the opera’s centerpiece, the hushed spoken-word pep talk “Pinned-to-the-Table-Man,” as audience members (quietly) cheered him on.
Each time the band restarted the piece, they upped the intensity — when Watt gave the order to start again for the final time, you could almost see the grimace of pain on Morales’ face. It paid off as the energy level in the band and the audience grew to a fever pitch.
The band plowed non-stop for close to 50 minutes, through the 30 “songs” — Watt explained early on that the album is really just one big song, in 30 parts, and that’s exactly how it came across. Throughout, the trio stuck close to each other on the stage, Watt and Watson circling Morales’ drum kit in an almost meditative circle, their eyes meeting during instrumental moments.
By the time they had hit the final notes of the almost fIREHOSE-esque “Wheel-Bound-Man,” the band looked beyond exhausted. And then they returned for a fierce encore that included Minutemen classics “The Glory of Man,” with Watson singing D. Boon’s lead vocal, and “Anxious Mo-Fo” with Watt on vocals — an unexpected treat and the cherry on top of one of the most powerful shows to hit Albany this year.
Hudson Valley stalwarts The Last Conspirators, featuring former Morons and Ghostrunner frontman Tim Livingston, kicked off the night with a raging set of their own, previewing material from their upcoming third album. Livingston brought good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll fury to the stage, hamming it up for the crowd on new highlight “Radio Warfare” and older tracks such as “A Celebration of Fury” and the rollicking “Two Cats in Suits.”