Pentagram at Snowboard On the Block, 9/14/13
Boby Liebling of Pentagram on stage at Snowboard On the Block in Denver.
If Pentagram's last show in Denver in March 2010 left a bit to be desired, this performance more than made up for it. Coming out of the gates with "Treat Me Right," Bobby Liebling and his new line-up were in fine form, both energetic and enthusiastic. Liebling was all tongue-wagging, intense stares, James Brown-esque dancing as he rocked out with his bandmates, doing air guitar and the like in genuine appreciation of the music, like he was a fan of his own band as much, perhaps even more than the audience. That set the expectations high for the set, and fortunately the band was more than able to meet that standard.
New guitarist Matt Goldsborough laid down the fiery precise yet seemingly chaotic guitar lines that carried a certain confidence and power as though he wrote the music. Liebling's nephew Greg Turley, meanwhile, played bass with a visceral authority, as though he was playing for some hardcore band instead of Pentagram. And Sean Saley kept the strong but subtle syncopated rhythms going with accented flourishes, matching the mood of each song perfectly. The solid musicianship let Bobby be Bobby and shine brightly as one of the great frontmen of the hard rock era.
For "Review Your Choices," Goldsborough's guitar had a vibrant, expressive tone, and Liebling's lyrics -- though about the usual blues and heavy rock tropes of struggling with personal demons, the vagaries of interpersonal relationships and masculine self-affirmation -- came across as remarkably thoughtful and original. All rock and roll and blues posturing aside, the music of Pentagram showed what this sort of music can do when it dares to go beyond the "baby baby, devil woman tonight" nonsense.
Before "First Daze Here," Liebling pointed to a woman in the audience he'd been eyeing and said, "Hey, blondie. Yeah you. You know who I'm talking about. You better be at that motel room. Lord have mercy. A solid twelve on a scale of one to ten. I've got to have you." Perhaps he spoke with this woman earlier, as he had made some of his usual rock and roll gestures off to the side of the stage earlier with his tongue wagging. Crass? Sure. But somehow, it sounded candidly sincere coming from Liebling.
The set drew a lot from the earlier career of the band, much to the delight of many people in attendance. To that end, hearing "Die For All Your Sins" made you think that perhaps the roots of death metal and grindcore can be found in that era of Pentagram, as the main guitar progression was reminiscent of "Scum" from Napalm Death. Prior to that song's performance, someone from the festival told Liebling they had time for two more songs, and he negotiated for three more. And when the audience surged forward during "Die For All Your Sins," that same guy stepped forward on the stage and gestured for people to get back, and Liebling said, "Let them come up."
But once the song was over, Liebling and the stage manager had a friendly talk and Liebling asked the audience to respect the wishes of the stage guy so that they could play the two more songs left in the set. For the most part, people went along and the show ended strongly with "20 Buck Spin." During the last song, Liebling made what had to be a bit of a joke when he said, "We're about to finish off. Let's see those tits," as it was neither the proper weather nor era for that sort of thing.
Snowboard on the Block - 9/14/13
01. Treat Me Right
02. Forever My Queen
03. Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram)
04. Review Your Choices
05. First Daze Here
06. Dying World
09. All Your Sins
10. Be Forewarned
11. 20 Buck Spin
Personal Bias: I've been a bit of a Pentagram fan for a handful of years, and I never expected to see the band in March 2010. As mentioned before, this show was much better.
Random Detail: Ran into El Brian, Sylas Cooley, formerly of Landlord Land, and Grant Netzorg of In the Company of Serpents at the show.
By the Way: In the Company of Serpents is putting out its next album soon.
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