DKT/MC5, Astoria, London

Call us animals, please
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The Independent Culture

"Had the horns of the Huns ever had noise to compare?" Such was Norman Mailer's response to the "holocaust of decibels" that was the Motor City 5's notorious 1968 performance at the Chicago Festival of Light - a protest against the Democratic party convention taking place across town - which ended in a bloody cloud of billy clubs, tear gas and police choppers. Between 1965 and 1972, these five blue-collar white kids from Detroit took the rock'n'roll/R&B rivets of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, the blues of John Lee Hooker and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the improvisational jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders and the indigenous soul and funk of their home town and found themselves welding it to a cod-subversive political ethos that would ultimately lead to their undoing at the hands of a government who didn't take kindly to being monikered "phony-ass authority control-addict creeps".

"Had the horns of the Huns ever had noise to compare?" Such was Norman Mailer's response to the "holocaust of decibels" that was the Motor City 5's notorious 1968 performance at the Chicago Festival of Light - a protest against the Democratic party convention taking place across town - which ended in a bloody cloud of billy clubs, tear gas and police choppers. Between 1965 and 1972, these five blue-collar white kids from Detroit took the rock'n'roll/R&B rivets of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, the blues of John Lee Hooker and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the improvisational jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders and the indigenous soul and funk of their home town and found themselves welding it to a cod-subversive political ethos that would ultimately lead to their undoing at the hands of a government who didn't take kindly to being monikered "phony-ass authority control-addict creeps".

Their psychedelic manifesto of "Armed Love" was as woolly as singer Rob Tyner's freaky white-boy afro, but their sound - ferocious, catalytic, "the roar of the beast in all nihilism", as Mailer described it - contained a promise of what rock'n'roll could be. Their subversive counter-cultural sloganeering about teenagers overthrowing capitalism through rock'n'roll laid the foundations for punk and grunge but also led to surveillance by the FBI, a jail term for their manager (10 years for possessing two spliffs) and creative atrophy after just seven years and three albums: Kick Out the Jams, Back in the USA and High Time. The intervening years have seen the death of two band members - Patti Smith's husband Fred "Sonic" Smith and frontman Rob Tyner - a spell in jail for guitarist Wayne Kramer (burglary and drugs) and now a reformation by the three remaining members instigated by a global multinational, Levi's.

Last year, bassist Michael Davis, guitarist Wayne Kramer, and drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson played a sold-out performance at the 100 Club, with guest vocalists including Dave Vanian, Ian Astbury and Motörhead's Lemmy. Speculation about who would be taking up vocal duties tonight ranged from Evan Dando to Mark Lanegan.

In the event, the honour was shared between Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Lisa Kekaula of LA punkers the Bellrays - the former all Beck-ish absurdist energy, the latter sporting a beachball-sized afro and soul-rock shriek that belonged to a Black Power rally as orchestrated by the Weathermen. The original DKT trio came on stage and plunged straight into a kinetic "Rambling Rose" with all the relish of men who really have been through the mill and know they still have something to teach. Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA" - as sung by the still-thuggish Davis, and with Nicke Royale of Swedish rockers the Hellacopters on back-up axe duties - was vital and crude.

"Call Me Animal" and "Motor City is Burning" found Kekaula striding the stage with the guerrilla strut of Angela Davis. "I Want You Right Now" found Mark Arm jumping off the stage into the audience for five minutes, before leaping back on into a blistering version of "Over and Over". This was all before the keynote addresses of "Kick Out the Jams", "Rocket Reducer No 62" and "I Believe to My Soul".

But the proof of the 5's enduring brilliance came in the two wildly different encores, which featured the prosyletising of "American Ruse" and a supernova cover of Sun Ra's free-jazz space-rocker "Starship". Both were inspirational, and still sound like a road-map for a future rock'n'roll freeway.

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