Practitioners of classic Los Angeles punk X return to Chicago this week in high spirits, and for good reason. The quartet’s aptly named Re-Zoomed tour welcomes prodigal guitarist Billy Zoom back into the fold after slogging his way through a difficult season. When X visited City Winery last year, the Illinois native remained at his longtime home in Orange County, California, under doctors orders following a stiff bout of bladder cancer treatments.
Although Zoom continues to undergo chemotherapy, he has decided that more downtime would be counterproductive. “After a while, you just get over having cancer and you just want to go back to work,” said Zoom in the band’s official statement. With Zoom back in action, the band’s original 1977 line-up remains intact as it nears its 40th anniversary.
Guitarist and friend of the band Jesse Dayton filled in admirably for his sidelined hero on last year’s summertime run. Even with outstanding credentials gained playing alongside legendary roots music artists including Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Dayton himself would be unlikely to deny that there’s any substitute for Zoom’s chugging rhythm and the searing twang of his riffs – to say nothing of his signature splayed-legged stage presence and Cheshire Cat grin.
The punk-friendly confines of Metro should allow the Zoom ample opportunity to set his amps on stun, lock horns with drummer D.J. Bonebrake and shake off any lingering dust with genre-defining barn-burners like “The Hungry Wolf” and “Devil Doll.”
For a band with a history of insightful and steely-eyed songwriting, the current political climate offers an opportunity to perform pointed songs with still-burning relevance like “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts.” “It was better before, before they voted for What’s-His-Name,” sing bassist John Doe and Exene Cervenka during a song of tarnished optimism called “The New World.”
* X, with Dead Rock West, 8 p.m., Aug. 19, Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Admission: $30 (ages 18+); etix.com.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email: email@example.com