If guitarist Greg Ginn wants Black Flag to once again be the most powerful band in the world, he needs to find a new drummer.
Even at his best Wednesday night at Bogie’s, Gregory AMoore was merely competent, aping early drummer Robo’s stomp on “Nervous Breakdown” and “Depression” or Bill Stevenson’s kinetic slamming on “Can’t Decide” with none of the style or finesse of either drummer. And at his worst, he ruined songs — “Gimme Gimme Gimme” turned into a shambling nightmare, with AMoore completely unable to keep up with Ginn’s growling guitar and bassist Dave Klein’s thundering lines.
He’s simply not a hard-core drummer — while he’s played with Ginn for the last 20 years in projects like Gone, those projects have all explored the guitarist’s jammy, arty sides. Given his long-standing tenure with Ginn, it’s unlikely that he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon — which will spell major problems for this lineup of Black Flag if it continues beyond this current round of touring and the upcoming album.
Riling up the crowd
There was plenty to be excited about at this performance though. Seeing Ginn perform these songs again with any lineup is a treat — he’s lost absolutely nothing in the nearly three-decade layoff away from Black Flag, and spent the 70-minute set shredding away gleefully at the songs’ angular progressions and discordant solos (and for some reason playing theremin, which added nothing to anything but didn’t ruin anything, either).
Singer Ron Reyes was also in top form, roaring Ginn’s alienated lyrics with more power and conviction than he ever brought to the band during his initial short-lived stay between 1979 and 1980.
After a brief instrumental jam to open the set shortly after 10, the band launched into “Revenge,” from Reyes’ only record with the original group, the five-song “Jealous Again” EP. Immediately the packed house turned into a swirling mass of flesh and fists, with everyone roaring every word right back at Reyes. This didn’t let up through early classics “I’ve Had It,” “Nervous Breakdown” and “Fix Me,” each song riling up the crowd further.
The seven new songs included here were the only time anyone got a breather. Some half-hearted moshing during “The Chase” (one of the best of the new batch) gave way to bewildered stares during the ponderous “Blood and Ashes.” In the live setting, “Down in the Dirt” was the best of the bunch, with Ginn punctuating the song’s stop-start rhythm with his best noise solo of the evening.
The best part of this new lineup is Klein, a veteran of Screeching Weasel. His playing shined through most clearly on the opening solo and fills in “Six Pack” and on “Jealous Again,” the second-to-last song played. With a great drummer, Klein could have really roared — as it was, he more often than not had to make up for AMoore’s limp thudding.
The same lineup, with professional skateboarder Mike Vallely in place of Reyes, opened the show as Good For You — and easily topped Black Flag, playing its debut album “Life is Too Short Not to Hold a Grudge” in its entirety. Without the weight of history, Ginn and company were free to forge ahead with daring new music that made the best of everyone’s talents.
Good For You’s triumphant set calls into question the whole reason for Black Flag existing today — which is, ostensibly, to create new music. The fact that Ginn is writing better new music with this lineup under a different name suggests that maybe it’s best to just let sleeping dogs lie.