Side effects of smiling and dancing occurred as fans devoured the riffs, licks and fills that Ex Hex delivered at Chicago’s Thalia Hall on April 10. Playful melodies overlapped serious shredding proving yet again that – despite the prevalence of oh-so-serious sounds in modern rock – guitars are really fun.
From the neon Ex Hex sign hanging above the stage to the glittering backdrop to the sprawling solos, the delicious excess of the 1980s was everywhere. Mary Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris – joined by bassist David Christian – indulged fans’ thirst for a rock release right from the start. “You Fell Apart” and “How You Got That Girl” opened the set, before the four-piece introduced music from their latest album, It’s Real, with “Good Times.”
“This is called ‘Good Times.’ It’s about the times we’re having right now,” said Timony.
Soon after, “Waterfall” had everyone singing “whoa, ohh” and “Another Dimension” – a Pat Benatar-esque power ballad – kept the party vibe going. By tapping into eighties nostalgia, pairing it with a snarl or two and tying the whole package together with rebellious riot grrrl energy, Ex Hex shared a sound all their own.
Catchy melodies anchored the set, but it was the intricacy of Ex Hex’s instrumentation that made fans lean in to fully experience every note.
Regardless of whether Timony or Wright took the lead, guitar solos fluttered with ease rivaling the infectious nature of each verse, chorus, verse and even a bridge or two. Timony was all smiles delivering a slinky on the inside, crunchy on the outside interlude on “Tough Enough” – It’s Real‘s radio-ready breakout single – while Wright’s crisp phrasing on “Radiate” served as the perfect counterpart to her peachy vocals.
The spotlight fixated on Harris during “Cosmic Cave” as she and Christian eked every ounce of suspense from an extended outro seamlessly leading into “Everywhere.” Timony and Wright playfully herded each other around the stage during the raucous Rips‘ tune – using the brute strength of their alternating leads – until the dueling guitarists met in the middle for a magical melding of sounds.
Though It’s Real is still fresh off the presses, Rips received a lot of love throughout the night. The punchy intro of “Don’t Wanna Lose” provoked one of the most enthusiastic crowd reactions and, earlier, the playful punk energy of “Beast” celebrated a range of vocal collaborations with overtones and harmonies.
Clocking in at a little over an hour, the full performance managed to give fans what they needed while still leaving them wanting more. Ex Hex will continue to tour across the globe through the fall.
It’s Real is available via Merge Records. Head over to ExHexband.com for more information.