Live review: Christian Death, Tremont Music Hall (9/15/2013)


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Christian Death
Tremont Music Hall
Sept. 15, 2013

Pioneering death rockers Christian Death had skidded to an abrupt stop Sunday night after their opening number, and already bassist/female vocalist Maitri needed a drink. While guitarist, singer and guiding light of the Goth trio Valor Kand struggled with technical difficulties involving pedal settings and synch issues, Maitri bantered with the crowd at the foot of the Tremont Casbah stage.

"If we have to wait, let's get fucked up," Maitri beamed, all brassy and sassy in her revealing Goth chick gear. A patron obliged, buying the bassist a shot of whiskey which she briskly downed. Maitri pointed to her benefactor. "If I make mistakes, blame that guy."

A few minutes earlier, the band had strutted out onto a stage festooned with Halloweeny white lace webbing and blood red roses while creepy organ echoed through the hall. With forked beard and brocaded jacket, Valor suggested ancient warlord Tamerlane crossed with a psychedelic '60s rocker. Maitri was in black mesh and the shortest of skirts. Despite appearances, Maitri was more wickedly funny den mother than dominatrix, and Valor came off like a brainy, good-natured big brother.

With song titles like "This is Heresy," one might expect a pretentious polemic, a didactic screed against Valor's favorite target, organized religion. Yet instead of a blasphemous declamation from the anti-pulpit, Valor and crew delivered a high energy, rollicking rock show, more haunted fun house than satanic mass.

Amid drummer Jason Frantz's rolling cymbals, Valor and Maitri launched into set opener "Sleepwalk," a grooving, dynamic rocker. It was after that propulsive punky number, that the tech issues arose. Yet the band handled everything with good humor. Valor riffed on Billy Graham. "Can you imagine all the books that must be banned from the Billy Graham Library?" the prince of Goth grinned. The trio's good nature went a long way to offset any audience impatience with audio problems. That was a good thing, because there would be more dilemmas ahead.

Once the band got cooking again, Maitri's "Peter Gunn"-gone-metal bass transformed death rock classics like "Seduction Thy Destruction" and "This Glass House" into glammy graveyard stomps. Her bluesy, full bodied vocals recalled belters like Janis Joplin, serving as perfect counterpoint to Valor's sepulchral Iggy Pop croon.

On songs like the Middle Eastern tinged snake dance of "I Am in Love with Myself", the galloping psychedelia of power-of-pussy anthem "Worship along the Nile" and the Vanilla Fudge-style codeine crawl of "This is Heresy," both band and audience were having the time of their life.

Unfortunately, tech issues stopped Christian Death's graveyard train once again mid-show. "Can we just play the fucking song?" Maitri laughed. "Fucking songs are my favorite kind of songs," Valor replied. At times, the interplay between the priest and priestess of Goth resembled a dark screwball comedy, or a profanity laced episode of The Addams Family.

Valor's diffident good cheer and Maitri's bawdy banter kept the audience engaged in the proceedings, minimizing the crowd's ebb and flow between the stage and bar during the stopdown. The evening turned into a kick-ass concert interspersed with segments of the Goth Rock Comedy Hour. If Christian Death saw fit to release a recording of this show, it would be the funniest live LP since Lou Reed's notorious concert-cum-stand-up-routine Take No Prisoners.

Valor kept up his ongoing comedic put-down of Billy Graham, somehow getting the notion that the elder Graham had passed on. From there, it was a short step for Valor to jokingly blame the malign interference of the ghost of Billy Graham for their audio problems. If so, the Ghost of Graham prevailed, short circuiting Christian Death's set finale so that the show fizzled out instead of slamming down with all the gothic grandeur of a coffin lid closing. Yet that was okay. With sincere apologies the band trouped gamely offstage, having fought the supposed specter of America's most famous evangelist to a draw.

On Sunday night, when Christian Death fired on all cylinders, they were a spirited, surprisingly fun rock band. And when they misfired - well, at least they were down-to-earth, good natured and entertaining as hell.

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