As the screen rolled up from the stage Friday night at First Avenue, the crowd swelled to the dance floor preparing to holler along to "Last Time," the bawdy opening number of the Ike Reilly Assassination's 2001 debut album. Pre-concert press had promised that the record would be played in its entirety for the first half of the show, marking the disc's 10th anniversary. However, Reilly strummed out the rawer, semi-acoustic tune "God Damn Shame" to kick off the set. Then came the gritty, weary "Cash Is King." Then the mellow, burning ditty "Crave." And then...
Damn them. Those Irish wise-asses from Libertyville, Ill., were pulling one over on us. They played "Salesmen & Racists" in its entirety, all right -- but they did it in reverse order (last song first and first song last). It took some of us a little longer to figure it out than others.
It also thus took the show a little while to really get going. "My Wasted Friends" finally prompted the first big crowd singalong. "Duty Free" sparked the first real full-throttle rock moment. By the time it got to "Hail! Hail!," it became clear the backwards bit wasn't just for kicks. The momentum built and built into the rowdiest, best songs on the record, including "Hip-Hop Thighs #17," "Commie Drives a Nova," "Angels & Whores" and finally "Last Time." Well played, Mr. Reilly.
A few tales from the making of the record were interwoven between songs. Before "Hip-Hop Thighs," the singer recounted listening to a lot of rap and then being coerced into smoking grass for the first time in a decade by guitarist/keyboardist/producer Ed Tinley. Said Reilly, "So I had a shot of weed, ate a Tombstone pizza and wrote this song." That explains everything, really.
After a short break following the "Salesmen" segment, Reilly came back out in a bathrobe as if he were ready to call it a night. As if. The band played over an hour more, starting with "Good Work." Highlights included "Valentine's Day in Juarez," "I Don't Want What You Got Going On," "Garbage Day" and especially "When Irish Eyes Are Burning." With a couple stragglers making it on stage from IRA past and/or Libertyville community-service crews or who knows where -- "I haven't seen some of these guys since the Turf Club shows," Reilly interjected -- "Irish Eyes" was amped up with five guitars and safely teetered on the brilliant side of a total mess.