DKT/MC5 at Metro


June 14, 2004

BY JIM DeROGATIS Pop Music Critic

Veteran rockers Wayne Kramer, Michael Davis and Dennis Thompson faced a significant challenge at Metro on Friday night as they attempted to evoke the spirit of their legendary band the MC5 without two of that groundbreaking group's key members.

In interviews, Kramer stressed that this band can't be the MC5, since rhythm guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and Rob Tyner, one of the most distinctive vocalists in rock history, both died in the early '90s. The DKT/MC5 is a celebration of his old band's music by a group that is living in the present, he promised.

The DKT/MC5 almost fulfilled that pledge, delivering a set that drew from the MC5's three albums in the late '60s and early '70s -- including timeless songs such as "Kick Out the Jams," "Ramblin' Rose" and "Sister Anne" that helped pave the way for punk rock-and nicely illuminating the group's major influences: revved-up '50s rock 'n' roll, sweaty Detroit soul (it paid homage with a cover by the late Ray Charles) and wild free jazz (it also performed its cover of Sun Ra's "Starship," complete with guests from the Chicago Horns).

Kramer's Stratocaster effectively summoned the roar of one of Detroit's biggest V8 engines. Thompson and Davis were still a massively hard-hitting but very swinging rhythm section. Power-pop legend Marshall Crenshaw did an admirable job of stepping into Smith's shoes. And Mudhoney vocalist Mark Arm, who sang about half of the songs, reminded the packed crowd that after Kurt Cobain, he was the strongest and most distinctive singer to emerge from the Seattle grunge scene of the early '90s.

The problem was that the vocal chores were divided with erstwhile Lemonheads leader and alt-rock lightweight Evan Dando, who was assigned the job of singing the MC5's slighter, poppier tunes, including "High School" and "Shakin' Street."

Dando volunteered for the job because he is allegedly a huge MC5 fan, but he couldn't remember any of the lyrics, and he continuously referred to cheat sheets that had been taped to the stage at his feet. When he was singing, he jumped up and down and rolled on the floor like an over-caffeinated idiot. He continued his efforts to draw the spotlight during Arm's songs, awkwardly shaking a tambourine, doing cartwheels across the stage and more or less screaming "Look at me!" like a petulant kindergartner.

At one point, as Dando leaned into the crowd, a fan thrust his middle finger in the singer's face. Dando didn't back off, and neither did the fan. Kramer finally ended the stand-off by thrusting the neck of his guitar at the angry fan and backing him away from the vocalist until security escorted the man out.

I felt sorry for this fan-turned-critic: He was expressing the opinion of everyone at Metro. Instead of defending Dando, Kramer should have slapped him upside the head and fired him on the spot, because he seriously detracted from what was otherwise an intense, magical and historic reunion.

Opening the show were the New York garage band Suffrajett, whose striking frontwoman Simi underscored the connections between punk and soul first charted by the MC5, and an ad-hoc combo of local musicians (bluesman Nick Tremulis, drummer Stone and noise-guitar hero Rick Rizzo) who backed writer, former MC5 manager and revolutionary agitator John Sinclair for an entertaining set of attitude-laden Beat poetry.