Wednesday, June 19
The way The Black Angels stand on stage and the songs just continue to tumble, no real duds, no dry spots, just a series of mini-revelations, well, it’s a bit like seeing The Brian Jonestown Massacre when on form, but with The Angels you get the feeling – instantly – that they’re always on form. So effortless, almost nonchalant, the songs just keep appearing, one after the other, perfect psychedelic-pop/garage-rock gems; each one just polished enough to shine, still raw enough to appeal.
The focus for this tour is strong new album, Indigo Meadow, but as the Texan five-piece threw some two-dozen songs out there were highlights from across their career. A remarkably consistent catalogue when laid out in this way.
That swirl of organ recalls The Doors, it’s obvious, but here it’s stripped of the pomp and silly drama, the circus – there’s a forward energy to the music of The Black Angels, meaning subverted Duane Eddy guitar sounds chug along inside and around the songs as a lurch of post-modern blues or a touch of beat-combo infectiousness sends each song on.
Unpacking the music you’ll find a lot in it – seemingly more so live than on the album. Where, at home, with the great music of their catalogue, you’ll hear as many psychedelic/Nuggets influences as you want, the obvious 13th Floor Elevators and traces of Love, VU and Strawberry Alarm Clock among many others – all married up to garage-rock confidence, it’s live that you see – and hear – the full impact of the songs and of what goes into them/and therefore comes out of them.
The chime of The Byrds, the shimmer and churn of shoegaze, so many ideas from the 1960s – not just psychedelic – and all updated/purloined so as to appear (within) the band’s own sound.
In fact what I thought of – most – was The Dandy Warhols. And how the Dandys looked like they were sure they sounded like The Black Angels. But they never did. Not even at their best. They had the swagger, the cockiness, the look – but never the sound. The Black Angels, quite the opposite of The Dandy Warhols (ie: actually talented) were all about the music, the audience, the commitment to performance – it was not about them as such; they were just (as it should be) the conduit for the music.
So far from pretentious, not even close to the lazy hipster-tag jibe, almost (rather) geeky, this band hit it out of the park with pretty much every song. Surf rock, hints of where prog and psychedelia crossed swords, and every member crucial to the sound.
From rockabilly-ish guitars to the big, proud but no-frills drumming every member played a blinder, none of them took the spotlight. Lead singer Alex Maas sometimes disappeared inside the song, his voice just a texture, other times he was the song – the other members working off him. When his microphone stand slipped at one point an audience member adjusted it for him. There was a nod from Maas, mid-song, a thank you. And then at the end of the tune a handshake. A proud, but short, beam of a smile. That seemed to sum up how seriously this band took it – but how, instinctively, they were connected to the audience, aware of them, in need of them, appreciative of them, but there for the work rather than the adulation.
These guys delivered a hell of a set; served up as no big deal too; just a job – in the sense that this is what they do. And they do it so well. About as well as you could expect.
The crowd, not huge, but by no stretch embarrassing, swayed and shuffled, danced and stood delighted.
There was something for everyone and everyone there definitely got something.