X frontman John Doe railed the Lion's Lair on Thursday - Reverb

Live review: John Doe @ the Lion’s Lair

In a mix of Colfax dive bar, blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll and old-school punk that only he could pull off so easily, John Doe once again graced the small, beer-soaked stage of the Lion’s Lair on Thursday night — the first of a two-night stand. The only thing that made the set more exciting was the surprise addition of original X drummer DJ Bonebrake as part of the trio, which brought a more prominent family-of-aging-hipsters vibe to the gig.

“We worked really hard for this,” said a typically jocular Doe from the stage at the start of the hour-plus set of 22 songs. “We practiced THREE WHOLE HOURS last night,” he explained, just before the three stumbled through “The Losing Kind” and “Mama Don’t” — a few from Doe’s solo stack. Then they tripped into a getting-more-solid vibe with “White Girl” that really warmed the half-filled room and broke any ice that may have miraculously held on by that point.

Doe followed that one by admitting that he’d “never be Billy Zoom, but that’s OK. It’s probably better that way,” as he switched from the electric to an acoustic.

From there on out, the trio just got stronger, while the crowd continued to melt into the pub-rock groove. The dancing, jumping, laughing and drinking increased through a new tune from Doe’s next album, “Keeper,” (reportedly coming out in a matter of days) called “Little Tiger,” then “Lean Out Yr Window” and X’s classic homage to monogamous carnivores, “The Hungry Wolf.”

Before railing into “Big Moon,” Doe commented on the conspicuous absence of the new governor, John Hickenlooper (a regular at past X shows) by speculating that, “Maybe the governor has a crush on Billy Zoom, and that’s why he’s always at the X shows, but he’s not here,” grinning widely.

As they hit the last third of the set with “Never Enough,” all three hours of practice paid off. They were as tight and perfect as a young band with a heavy tour schedule, rather than the older punk heroes they truly are.

Aged or not, Doe has an easy way with music that most musicians can only envy. He payed homage to another rock star with similar traits — Alex Chilton — with a truly brilliant cover of “I’m In Love With A Girl,” and followed with the heavy “Twin Brother,” a pair of tunes that just about had the whole audience feeling misty-eyed.

They finished with a rousing version of “The New World” amidst loud cheers and adoring shouts, well primed for another stab scheduled for tonight.

Editor’s note: John Doe plays the Lair again tonight — and again tomorrow night at the Meadowgrass Music Festival. Also, we heard that Guv. Hick did show up at the Lair last night — but too late to see Doe’s set.

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Billy Thieme is a Denver-based writer, an old-school punk and a huge follower of Denver’s vibrant local music scene. Follow Billy’s explorations at DenverThread.com, and his giglist at Gigbot.

Michael McGrath is a Denver area photographer. His work is available at Twist and Shout Records. Visit his website.

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