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Jay Reatard Goes Mental

CHICAGO: The Memphis-based punk-rocker blows through the Windy City like a tornado.

Jay Reatard was all business Friday night (Feb. 22) as he played a one-off gig at Reggie’s Live, a newish punk club on Chicago’s South Side, before hitting the road with the Black Keys. Following a stellar performance by ex-Pony Ian Adams’ garage rock outfit the Submarine Races, Reatard — along with bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes (both of Memphis band Boston Chinks) — took the stage, ready to rock in a black T-shirt sporting an image of false vampire teeth, red Nike hi-tops, and jeans as tight as his songs

After a little delay due to the sound guy, who appeared to be asleep at board, the visibly annoyed Reatard launched into his 16-song set at break-neck speed, as if attempting to finish the chore ASAP. With spit spewing, mops of curly hair flailing, and flying-V guitars wailing, he and Pope head-banged in sync as they tore through “My Shadow” and “Death Is Forming,” both off latest LP Blood Visions, and B-side “It’s So Useless,” which was delivered with a full-throttle ferocity. Guitar solos on “Oh It’s Such a Shame” and forthcoming Matador single “See/Saw” bolstered the heavy-metal shtick, and on “Nightmares” Reatard’s voice sounded even more high-pitched than usual, as if he’d just inhaled some helium.

Either not one for stage banter or too pissed off to bother, Reatard remained mum most the night. In fact, aside from shouting the titles before each song, the only two things he said were, “There’s constant fucking feedback on the vocals!” after set opener “Blood Visions,” and “Hey, let that kid back in — he didn’t do anything wrong,” when a crowd surfer was plucked from the audience and thrown out. A feedback and noise-laden “Waiting for Something” concluded the show, complete with a slowed-motion jam. No encores for Jay Reatard — he was gone even before mosh pit had stilled.