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Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer at Irving Plaza, NYC
Oct. 10, 2001, Photo © 2001 NY Rock


Not Your Average Joe: Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros at Irving Plaza, NYC, 10/10/01, by Otto Luck

Rumor has it that Joe Strummer got his name as a result of his rapid-fire rhythm guitar style. Early in his career, people took note of how he passionately strummed his instrument and they called him Joe.

Joe, or Mr. Strummer as the Queen would call him, paid New York City a visit at downtown venue Irving Plaza, October 9th and 10th. I caught the second of his two-night stint. Within moments of the opening number, Strummer, with his infectious presence and trademark pained baritone, had me remembering what is good about the music business – and, yes, sometimes it does take a reminder or two.

  Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer at Irving Plaza, NYC
Oct. 10, 2001, Photo © 2001 NY Rock
Joe's backup band, the Mescaleros, was solid and tight as a pair of Trash and Vaudeville stretch jeans. Strummer – the artist who penned such classics as "London Calling" and "Rock the Casbah," the man who just about invented punk rock (no, it wasn't Al Gore) – captivated the crowd quickly, even if he did have to glance at his lyrics sheets once or twice throughout the night. Then again, maybe it was just a Chinese takeout menu. I wasn't close enough to know for sure.

Clad in black slacks and shirt, Strummer looked healthy, happy and vibrant as ever. He treated the crowd to songs culled mostly from his solo efforts with the Mescaleros (Rock Art and the X-Ray Style and Global a Go-Go), such as "Tony Adams," "Johnny Appleseed," "Mega Bottle Ride," "Shaktar Donetsk," and "Mondo Bongo." He introduced this latter number as a song for the "ladies-only mosh pit." Sad to say, this mythical pit was only a figment of Strummer's imagination, as it was of mine once the thought had been introduced to me.

Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer at Irving Plaza, NYC
Oct. 10, 2001, Photo © 2001 NY Rock

Not surprisingly, since the Mescalaros brand of world-music-cum-rock-and-roll tends to be somewhat laid-back, the rave-ups of the night came from the repertoire of that little band of yesteryear called the Clash. Early into the set, Strummer launched into crowd-pleaser "Rudie Can't Fail" and followed with other Clash numbers including "Police and Thieves" (written by Junior Murvin and Lee "Scratch" Perry), "Police on My Back" and set closer "London's Burning."

Prior to the show, rumors had floated about of special guest appearances. Among others, Mick Jones had been mentioned. My guess was Britney Spears. And though none of the aforementioned wound up surfacing, the evening's festivities went off without a hitch. Stummer was his usual bag of bubbly energy. The packed house responded in kind, the oxygen in the room miraculously lasted all night and, as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.

October 2001

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