Rob Tyner - vocals; Fred "Sonic" Smith - guitar; Wayne Kramer - guitar; Michael Davis - bass; Dennis Thompson - drums
Pay witness to the MC5's immense performing talents with this New Year's Day recording, laid down at the dawn of the 1970s. Although the recording is incomplete (it cuts off just before "Shakin' Street" and an outro medley), you get a glimpse of the band at their very best, having just returned to their home state of Michigan and boasting a load of new songs. The show's master of ceremonies introduces the set by thanking the openers (the Coven, the SRC, and the Third Power), and a clean version of the band's classic intro: "It is time to…kick out the jams, brothers and sisters! The M-C-5!" They open with "Ramblin' Rose," and Wayne Kramer's guitar leads blaze the five through many of the Motor City Five's best tracks, including "Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)" and "Teenage Lust." At one point, Tyner jokingly asks the other guys to turn it down because of his New Year's Eve hangover, but they continue to rock unabated anyway—it was, after all, the start of a new decade!
Half the set is made up of songs that would appear on Back in the U.S.A., their second full-length album and first studio full-length (1969's Kick Out the Jams was a live recording and a soon-to-be classic) which would come out later that year. Jon Landau produced the set, and although it's historically been overshadowed by its immediate predecessor, Back in the U.S.A. is now acknowledged as a proto-punk landmark. The quality of these then-new tunes shines through, even alongside the Jams tracks and their choice in covers: A bright, soulful rendition of James Brown's "It's a Man's World" ("but it wouldn't be nothin' without a woman or a girl," as Tyner gently points out), as well as a cover of what Tyner says is "a sweaty teenage ballad for all you sweaty teenagers"—"Fire of Love," a brilliant, melodramatic '50s rock tune penned by Jody Reynolds.
The MC5 would go on to release Back in the U.S.A. and the following year's High Time before disbanding in 1972. Their final show at Detroit's Grande Ballroom may have been sparsely attended, but the group's influence would be felt for years to come, especially in the punk movement of the late '70s, alongside the similarly brutal, bluesy sounds of their hometown comrades in the Stooges.