Initially based in Cleveland, Ohio, guitarist Cheetah Chrome (born Gene O’Connor) helped draft the sound of punk in mid-1974 with the seminal but short-lived rock band Rocket from the Tombs. Teaming with vocalist Stiv Bators in 1975, Chrome and Bators formed Frankenstein, which became the Dead Boys when the band relocated to New York's nascent punk rock scene in 1976. The Dead Boys split in 1979, although several times over the next decades Chrome reunited both the Dead Boys and Rocket from the Tombs. Chrome stayed in New York, playing on other artists' recordings, performing as a solo artist and forming more short-lived bands. Chrome then underwent a mid-life change in the mid-1990s, relocating to Nashville, Tennessee, where he married, had a son, worked at a record company and recorded music that was more acoustic and even -- yikes -- country flavored.
A few years ago Chrome returned to New York and performed at downtown venues sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar. Tonight he returned to the Bowery Electric with a rock band and banged out the old time punk rock. Chrome opened with the Dead Boys' best known song, "Sonic Reducer," featuring guest guitarist Ross "the Boss" Friedman of the Dictators. Chrome sang almost all the songs in his set, but did not pretend to be any semblance of a vocalist; his voice has grown so hoarse over the years that it was difficult to hear the lyrics over the music. His presentation was more about style, passion and history. If anyone had forgotten the imperfect beauty of simple, speedy three-chord garage rock, Chrome was there with scorching lightning to reignite the fire. Far from polished, the band's energy was equally scathing and scraping, just like the best punk rock was designed to be. For the finales, Chrome invited both Friedman and Bobby Leibling of doom metal band Pentagram to join him on a few songs. Overall, Chrome offered a valuable look back at the elemental fabric of punk rock history.