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Rock*a*Teens: Atlanta, GA 6/6 & 6/7 (Live Review)

“Unless the elderly decide to riot” is my last cohesive thought, spoken out loud in a room full of ghosts & high expectations.

The Resurrection of the Rock*A*Teens is nigh! They take the stage, let us know it has been a rough week, death of a close friend, and with that, we are away.

“Black Metal Stars” somehow fills every inch of this room. You have to inhale it like the sticky air just to get your breath. It is as if not one moment has passed since they disbanded 12 years ago. Our high hopes were not high enough.

No one sounds like the Rock*A*Teens and as they careen through song after song, we all realize how much we have missed them.

Dang, even the song titles are poetic. “Little Caesar on a Bicycle”, “In the Woods of Hemlock Park”, “All That Deth Jazz”, “Leave What’s Left of Me”, “I Could’ve Just Died”, “Betwixt or Between”, “If I Wanted to be Famous(I’d Have Shot Someone)”.

My lovely friend, Bird, dubs them “John Irving-esque” which is apropos. Lyrically, not many songwriters come close to Chris Lopez. His verbosity and clear-cut love of language is staggering. And the music swirls & teeters & begs & pleads, always moving, always yearning, almost collapsing. The reverb drenched sonic-ness is breathtaking.

This is a two night affair. The first show is like being struck by lightning. Original drummer Chris Verene joins the band onstage for “Cry”, “Hinghanghung” & “Black Ice”. The addition of Michelle Dubois on keyboards, percussion & backing vocals is a genius stroke. Everyone looks happy to be back on stage.

Halfway through the two hour set, they play my all-time favorite song of theirs, “Put it Right Out of Your Mind” from “Sweet Bird of Youth”. I cannot believe my luck. We all hold hands and shout and sway. Later in the evening, I thank Lopez for playing it. He fought for it to stay in the set, he says. That makes him my spirit animal, I say. We all stay awake until the wee hours of the morning, completely sober but electrified by what we have just seen.

Night number two. We are all a little worse for the wear. Same room, different ghosts. Lopez’s voice is a little creakier but still magical. The set is similar to Friday’s but the inhabitants are the exact same.

About an hour in, Bird announces that this is like being in church. And it is. A rock & roll tent revival. We are baptized in song, drenched in the spirit of wonder. How lucky we are to witness this spectacle. We are unified, drunk on memories and awash in a sticky river of PBR and confetti.

And then, after all is said and done, they play one more song. My song. And I just kind of lose my mind. The Rock*A*Teens saved my life about 13 years ago and now, when I needed them most, when we all needed them most, they were back.

I don’t know why they were never more famous. They should have been everyone’s favorite band, the perfect blend of Bad Seeds & Panther Burns with just a hint of maudlin, Smithsian charm. They make raucous records that sound a hundred times better live. They are Southern and smart, like a Tennessee Williams play.

Trying to describe these nights is impossible. It’s like trying to tell someone about the amazing dream you had last night. No matter what you say, you can never convey how beautiful it was or how much it meant to you. All I can say is this…

Athens GA, Carrboro NC, Philly, Boston and Brooklyn. Count your lucky stars! For the Rock*A*Teens are inching their way towards you. Put on your dancing shoes and grab some Kleenex. It’s going to be a hell of a night.

(Review by: Lisa Matson)