The CJ Ramone/Shonen Knife might as well be dubbed “The All Ages Punk Rock Revival Tour” as this tour truly encapsulated all of the energy, fun, excitement, and charisma of the punk rock shows of old. When this tour rolled into Atlanta you can bet your sweet ass that I was going to be there and be there early. Surprisingly, the crowd was small but what I’ve learned from shows like this (especially CJ Ramone shows) is that you can judge the power of an audience solely based on the numbers. Hell, Sepultura had about 3x as many people up stairs in Heaven and that audience looked like they had all drank Kool-Aid laced with Ambien but that’s a whole other story.
The El Caminos
Kicking things off were local homeboys The El Caminos. I’ve seen this band two other times and after this show, I came to the same realization every time. I figured out that I only like this band for about three songs and after that they just start to fucking annoy me. Their lead vocalist has one of the best stage presences I’ve seen in a local band but after watching these guys, it’s easy to see why they haven’t really grown much out of their “local band” status. The songs just aren’t that good and the playing is just pretty sloppy, even by punk rock standards. After yet another forgettable 45 minute set which was about 35 minutes too long, I was stoked to finally be seeing the legendary Shonen Knife.
Shonen Knife took to the stage to a huge roar from the crowd and right away this was proof that a small crowd could be a powerful one. For over 30 years Shonen Knife has been delivering their own brand of sweet, fun, and energetic pop-punk music and they are a band that I was very excited to see as a part of this show. Usually, lead singer/guitarist is Naoko Yamano is the only one touring but on this North American tour, original bassist (and Naoko’s sister) Atsuko Yamano was present and along with drummer Emi Morimoto they put on, hands down, one of the most fun, electrifying performances I’ve seen in ages.
Shonen Knife very much embodies the spirit of the Ramones so it’s no shock that they were a perfect match for this tour. Their setlist was comprised of songs spanning their career like “Banana Chips”, “Sushi Bar”, and “Riding on the Rocket” but it was the material from their latest album Overdrive that I found to be some of my favorite stuff. Yamano announced that their latest album was very much inspired by the 70’s hard rock bands and that was very much apparent on “Bad Luck Song” and “Ramen Rock.” The band was so engaging and they really worked the crowd with their KISS-like stage moves/choreography and here’s the deal, Shonen Knife had me smiling ear to ear and dancing like a damn fool. It was a perfect performance and one that solidified me as a Shonen Knife fan for life.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. CJ Ramone, in my opinion, is the living heart and soul of The Ramones. As a matter of fact, I will go out on a limb and say that nobody loved being a Ramone more than Christopher Joseph Ward. When I first started listening to the Ramones, Dee Dee was on his way out and CJ would soon come in and inject the Ramones with a youthful energy that would carry them forward for another 7 years and have them go out on top of their game. The last time CJ was here in Atlanta he had yet to put out his first solo album Reconquista so the set was primarily made up of Ramones songs with just one new song, “Three Angels”, in the set. The show was massively awesome but I was so eager to see what kind of difference four years would make. Well, the answer is, a whole fucking lot!
This time around, CJ has enlisted Aquabats guitarist Ian Fowles and _____ drummer_____ and the trio wasted no time kicking things off with “Understand Me?” from CJ’s latest album Last Chance to Dance. Without even taking a break in between (in classic Ramone’s fashion) the band slid right into “One More Chance” which had everyone bopping up and down and dancing. It was so great to see CJ boldly kicking things off with two new songs and as the band launched right into the Ramones classic “Judy is a Punk” it was very easy to see that CJ’s new solo material is more than capable of standing tall on its own two feet beside the timeless Ramones classics. CJ was very playful with crowd and the band was giving nothing less than 110% and it was a nice change to see the audience reciprocating. What this crowd may have lacked in numbers they totally made up for it in enthusiasm, appreciation, and excitement.
CJ’s set was comprised of some amazing new songs such as “What We Gonna Do Now?”, “Carry Me Away”, and my personal favorite “Last Chance to Dance.” We were also treated to a heaping helping of classic Ramones songs such as “Rockaway Beach” , “Glad to See You Go” and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” but it was the rare deep cut “Danny Says” that really seemed to get everyone going mental. Set closer “Blitzkrieg Bop”, as always brought a huge roar from the crowd and while this is usually the end of the line, CJ actually did something he never does… an encore! CJ and Co. returned to the stage all smiles as CJ said, “You guys know I never do encores but this is Atlanta and you guys are fucking awesome.” With that the band kicked into “The KKK Took My Baby Away” which had everyone losing their minds and then to complete the 1-2 -3 punch was “Psycho Therapy” and “California Sun.”
To see that CJ Ramone & Co. brought it is just the hugest of all understatements. If there was ever any doubt as to who the real heart and soul of the Ramones is, all it takes is to see CJ Ramone live and you’ll get your answer quicker than you can say, “Gabba Gabba Hey!” As a Ramones fan for well over 20 years, all I can say is that the spirit of the Ramones is alive and well and in addition giving the fans some fantastic new music of his own that stands tall and proud on its own. CJ always says before leaving the stage, “Ramones Forever!” Well, I’d like to say this… CJ RAMONE FOREVER! Thanks for keeping it alive, CJ. Let’s do this again sooner than later.