Reverend Horton Heat/ Irving Plaza / March 1, 2000

Dallas psychobilly wildman Reverend Horton Heat (a.k.a. Jim Heath) served up a full hour of hellraising, punk-inspired, high-octane raunch for a packed Irving Plaza crowd. Wearing a bright red suit, bow tie, and greased-back pompadour, the Rev delivered car ‘toons’ and booze-soaked parodies while stimulating juvenile fratboys’ peckers with lowest common denominator bait “Wiggle Stick” and Nurture My Rig” (dedicated to “hot New York City girls”).

Like his manic mentor, Mojo Nixon, the Rev borrows freely from ‘50s rockabilly, swamp rock, and swingin’ Country. After leading off with a blustery spaghetti Western instrumental hoe-down and a brisk West Texas breakdown, he put the pedal to the metal on a jagged gear jammer reminiscent of Commander Cody’s ‘72 French Connection hit “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The Rev then went freewheelin’ on a bass thumpin’ cowpoke ditty ‘bout cocaine before deriding domesticity on the jailhouse boogie strutter, “Spend A Night In The Box” (the title track from his Cool Hand Luke-inspired new album).

When the trio weren’t rocking full-on, the Rev spurt out cool asides, ripping a Texas newspaper for calling his ‘96 release, Space Heater, one of the worst Texas-made recordings ever and giving the finger to New Musical Express for charging that “he’d be flipping burgers” and washed up soon. He then gained audience ‘parcipitation’ for upright bass partner Jimbo’s quirky theme song.

Admittedly, the Rev gets painted into stylistic dead ends on record. But he’s far more assertive, funny, and schizoid live (despite the fact he drained the audience with two plain Country-pop songs and needless guitar indulgences near closing time). Although derivative, the beat-driven, “Lust For Life”-skewed “I Can’t Surf” and the Polecats/ Stray Cats-derived “It’s Martini Time” bristled with enthusiasm.

By selling his filthy soul to the devil long ago, this guitar-slingin’ Reverend has left the comparatively sane competition in the dust.

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