The Black Angels and the Warlocks Saturday, June 14, 2008 Bluebird Theater Better Than: The rest of the new wave of neo-psychedelia.
The previous time I had seen The Warlocks was nearly three years ago at Larimer Lounge. While the music was stunningly beautiful and powerful, I got the feeling they felt a little lackluster about their performance, or it was just an off night for them emotionally. For this performance, they seemed positively rejuvenated, and singer Bobby Hecksher even sounded like he was in a good mood and happy to be playing.
With the fog machine making the stage look a little like a hip Ed Sullivan Show set gone nefarious, orange lighting making the band look like there were flames behind them at various points of the performance, the perfect atmosphere was cast for the Warlocks’ melding of Velvet Underground-esque drones, thick sonic atmospheres and deep, visceral rhythms. The most affecting part of the performance came at the end when Hecksher sang “Worn Thin” with nearly uncontrollable strain to hold back the emotions and desperation behind his vocals, which were surrounded by some of the most devastating guitar riffs heard in recent memory. I’m not sure if that song is on any of their releases, but it should be.
Up next was the Black Angels, who had three projectors running to create a layered image on the screen, which included various images from the past and present as well as patterns, primeval artwork and creative oil projections. The music had a hypnotic, physical presence that often draws you into a heightened state of consciousness. The rhythms, which often seemed similar from song to song, served as the framework upon which the rest of the instruments build these colossal, epic soundscapes that burn themselves into your mind. Dynamic, heavy, dense sounds with swirling patterns inside make much of the act's music seem simple but deeply layered and powerful.
During “Black Grease,” images of nuclear holocaust -- mushroom clouds and the death throes of the Hindenburg -- flashed in the background amid pictures of luminous patterns. In case it wasn't already obvious from their lyrics, the Black Angels have much more to say than your average rock band these days. The only drawback was that the band played a little too long and dragged out “Never/Ever” pretty extensively. But that hardly mattered in light of their strong performances throughout and the shamanistic quality of their music, especially live.
-- Tom Murphy
Warlocks Set List 1. Standing 2. Zombie Like Lovers 3. Come Save Us 4. Isolation 5. Shake The Dope Out 6. Dope Feels Good 7. Caveman Rock 8. Angry Demons 9. Stickman Blues 10. Worn Thin
The Black Angels Set List
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1. Manipulation 2. You on the Run 3. Sniper at the Gates of Heaven 4. Mission District 5. Black Grease 6. Deer-Ree-Shee 7. Science Killer 8. Young Men Dead 9. The Return 10. Surf City (revisited) 11. Never/Ever
1. Better Off Alone 2. Call To Arms (?)
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I love atmospheric, droney music. Random Detail: The Warlocks’ Bobby Hecksher’s voice sounded eerily like that of Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed. By the Way: Even bands on labels who have records in stores are having trouble affording to tour these days with gas prices being what they are.