The Heartbreakers were one of the first five punk bands whose records I owned. Oddly, my introduction to them wasn’t their classic (and only) studio album from 1977, L.A.M.F., it was Live at Max’s Kansas City—a posthumous document of a 1978 farewell/reunion show. I was fourteen years old and had never even heard of the band, but the back cover liner notes made them seem important (it said they joined the Sex Pistols, Clash, and Damned for the “ill-fated Anarchy Tour”) so I figured they must be somebodies and their album worth my babysitting cash. It is the first live punk album I’ve ever heard or owned, and remains one of my favorite live albums of all time to this day.
This DVD represents a 2017 live performance of L.A.M.F. in its entirety, knit together from three different performances at New York’s un-huge Bowery Electric club. Original guitarist/second banana Walter Lure, having had original bandmates Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Billy Rath all be grimly reaped over the years, is joined by an all-star cast of Tommy Stinson (Replacements), Wayne Kramer (MC5), and Clem Burke (Blondie) who slam through the album’s dozen tracks (plus an encore of “Do You Love Me” by the Contours, just like on Live at Max’s!) with a mixture of deft precision and fingers-crossed-hope-for-the-best anxiety, everyone trading vocal chores like baseball cards.
Here’s what I took away from the performance: 1) It really isn’t that interesting to watch Tommy Stinson sing Heartbreakers covers; 2) It really isn’t that interesting to watch (special guest) Jesse Malin sing Heartbreakers covers; 3) It is slightly interesting to watch Wayne Kramer sing Heartbreakers covers because he’s such a stiff at it; 4) It is slightly interesting to watch (special guest) Cheetah Chrome sing “Going Steady” just because he never really seemed like a “Going Steady” kinda guy; 5) It’s somewhat interesting to watch Clem Burke sing Heartbreakers covers just to prove he can drum and sing Heartbreakers songs at the same time; 6) It’s quite interesting to watch Liza Colby sing “I Love You,” because I had never heard of her before this and I always thought that song was dippy, but she knocked the shit out of it, and 7) Even though his voice breaks from time to time and his hat and jacket make him look like a cross between a punk rock Captain Kangaroo and Red Skelton, it’s still interesting to watch Walter Lure sing Heartbreakers songs, although, quite frankly, I’m more interested in hearing him singing Waldos songs from the ‘90s than Heartbreakers songs from the ‘70s these days, but I’m always happy to take what I can get.
Overall, the sound is great, though the camerawork is marred a bit by what appears to be senseless autofocus (hence auto-blurriness as well), and the cameras never really seem to be stable on their tripods, as they’re always moving slightly this way or that. Overall, it comes across exactly as advertised: An all-star cast getting together after a couple of practices to knock out some forty year old punky rock’n’roll classics, no more, no less. It was nice to see so many people of such disparate ages singing along, but, jeepers creepers, I think if you really “got” the Heartbreakers you’d put your fucking phones away during the show. I guess that’s what Walter must have written “Get Off the Phone” about. –Rev. Nørb (Jungle Records, Suite 3E, Alperton House, Bridgewater Rd., Wembley, HA0 1EH, United Kingdom, jungle-records.net)