A night of exceptionally interesting hard rock that ended with '70s metal legends Pentagram began with the new-look Space in Time. They were surprisingly confident and assured. The band's new singer, Mike, sounded like a young Ozzy Osbourne during the verses, and on the choruses he wailed away on the high notes like Ian Gillan. More than ever, the act has integrated R&B and psychedelia into its hard rock sound and Mike's soulful singing is very much a part of that transformation.
Vaughn's keyboard work was also stellar. Really, there's no dead weight in Space in Time. The guys played with an enthusiasm to match the eager crowd and won at least some of them over.
Sure, these guys aren't breaking new ground. But they also don't sound like they're trying to be a band from another era, which is not something a lot of their sonic brethren can say. The aesthetic may be classic but the execution is here and now.
Closing with a cover of Deep Purple's "Fireball," the revamped Space in Time left on a high note What can you say about a Kingdom of Magic show that hasn't been said so well by so many other people?
This time out, the Kingdom performed with a higher degree of precision and less wild abandon than usual. This cleanliness allowed you to appreciate how the music is rhythm driven -- not a vehicle for showcasing guitar prowess or silly rock posturing. Maybe the guys have reworked their material, but it seemed obvious that Kingdom doesn't deserve the "stoner rock" label. They're a group of guys who could be a hardcore band except they have a finer sense of nuance and dynamics. The music is not doomy so much as an eruption of sonic magma flowing with unstoppable grace. Sure, it can be a bit samey at times, but it's never boring.
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Pentagram's guitarist dropped the tour six hours before the band was set to leave, which left Johnny Wretched to fill in. He'd never having heard the songs until shortly before heading on the road. So this wasn't a proper Pentagram show, something not lost on one crowd member in particular.
But Bobby Liebling and company made the best of it, performing a relatively short set including solid renditions of "Forever My Queen," "Review Your Choices," and "Sign of the Wolf." Their cover of ZZ Top's "La Grange" went on forever, prompting a drunken fan in the crowd to say, "It's more like Penta-jam."
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The band closed with "20 Buck Spin" and promises from Bobby that they'd be back. Blame the stage dives and other antics from the unruly crowd for a suboptimal Pentagram show, but it was fun enough.
Critic's Notebook: Personal Bias: I like any performer that knows how to be a weirdo in the right way. Random Detail: Ran into Zach Bauer and Maureen Herman of Wicked Phoenix at the show. By the Way: It isn't actually necessary to try to start a fight at a show -- it's a misguided attempt at misplaced valor.