Those of you that pay even the slightest bit of attention to my concert-going are well aware that I am in no way averse to putting some serious mileage on my car in the name of rock and roll. And when serious rock and roll beckons, such as, say, the undeniable psych rock revivalists The Black Angels, well, I feel totally and utterly powerless against their tractorbeam and subsequently get behind the wheel. So to Philly I went, for a wild and wonderful weekend that was pretty dang awesome, thanks in no small part to the live display of sheer magnificence that was The Black Angels. I was totally in love with this band before this show, and was even more enamored, if that's even possible, afterwards. I was also definitely more deaf than before the show, but that's not really here nor there.
MINI RECAP: The Black Angels = Gravity Defying! Overall Score: A
Beneath a brain-bending backdrop of aural hallucination-inducing red and blue (basically, a giant blowup of their Phosphene Dream cover), the Angels began to play. I had, of course, been tremendously excited to see them again, but I didn't realize until they strolled onto the stage just how very excited I in fact was. Their monumental set began with the sinister strains of "You On The Run", from the most excellent Directions To See A Ghost. It took me about 3 seconds to get goosebumps. Once again unable to find my earplugs, I stood at the very back of the room, against the soundboard. And I still felt the bass go through me, head to toe. It was just raw enough, while still maintaining that epic scale on the record. Hot damn, hot damn, hot damn.
A menacing rendition of another favorite, "The Sniper At The Gates Of Heaven", was another early inclusion in the set. The metallic, slightly unhinged vocals of Alex Maas were in full bloom, adding infinitely to the glorious disquiet. In perhaps a moment of silliness, they followed that with new song "The Sniper", much less growling but still very dark. I must confess, I heard these new songs live in my head a dozen times, but they never managed to sound this good. The fierceness of the guitar, the unbridled aggression of it all. Sensational. I'd have to say, I had one gripe with their set. During "Yellow Elevator #2", the band omitted my favorite part of the song, and launched immediately into "Black Grease". Now, this would be fine, but I do so love that unexpectedly, transcendentally ephemeral floating of the vocals in the midst of what kinda sorta sounds almost like a pop song (or as close, perhaps, as The Black Angels get to a pop song). Actually, I had two gripes. The other being that they stopped playing.
The band did a great job of mixing up the set and including greatness from each and every record. "Bad Vibrations" has rapidly turned into one of my most favorite Black Angels songs, so hearing the overpowering noise yet tightness of that song was a delight. The lull of the beginning gave way to an explosion of sonic savagery, and I hung on every note. The haunting swirl of "Phosphene Dream" filled every corner of the TLA. Maas once more proved himself a one of a kind singer, with that unholy howl of his creeping in among the controlled monotone. Another near-pop song, "Telephone", was next, its eerie dance vibe sending shivers up my spine. And while I hated to see their set end, they shut it down in the best, baddest, loudest way possible: A torturously noisy version of "Young Men Dead". With the sonic cadence akin to a forced march, it's no wonder that video game company picked this song to soundtrack their ad.
Now, it's no secret that my love for this band probably colors my opinion of them. But dangit, if you were at this show and didn't feel the earth move, even just a little, well I have no clue what the heckadoo is wrong with you. Maybe it's the sting of $7 PRB tallboys (really, Philly?!). Bottom line, my friends, is that this band is one of the best live bands around. Period. End of discussion.
mp3: Telephone (The Black Angels from Phosphene Dream)