They once titled an album "Stay Sick!" and a recent song "Dopefiend Boogie," but at the 9:30 club Saturday night there was no denying it:
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach looked downright healthy. After nurturing the Cramps on a 30-year diet of primal rock stew -- from rockabilly to Screamin' Jay Hawkins and every twisted spawn in between -- chased with a penchant for greasy late-night decadence, Lux and Poison have earned the right to look wrung-out. But with former Blasters drummer Bill Bateman laying down a whip-crack beat, the Cramps slithered and strutted through a surprisingly taut 20-song show.
The leather-panted Lux was in fine voice throughout and remains remarkably lithe (most bios list him as being born in 1946), now letting only hints of his infamous self-abuse show through (he even kept his shirt on!) in the form of some well-rehearsed falls. Ivy was the night's real star, though, digging through a series of guitar riffs that shimmered, burrowed and tremoloed with muscular precision.
The set list leaned too heavily on last year's dire "Fiends of Dope Island" (with Bateman managing to make fodder like "Big Bad Witchcraft Rock" swing), but when the band waded into prime Cramps muck ("Rock on the Moon," "Primitive," "TV Set") the pyschobilly tension was beautiful. Lux and Ivy even pulled out "Lonesome Town," which they first disemboweled on 1977's "Gravest Hits," and its murky, creeping tones were the highlight of an unexpected display of Cramps staying power.
-- Patrick Foster