One of the best moments of the Black Angels' show at the Bluebird Theater last night came in the middle of the set when the band -- playing the first of its two night New Year's Eve run -- played "Phosphene Dream," the familiar title track from its 2010 album. The guitar resonated like a stuttering, yet controlled, welding sound effected by a masterful use of tremolo, creating a fuzzy, hefty, textured low end that boosted the sense of otherworldliness this act creates at its shows.
The show started off with "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys playing over the speakers as the band came on stage and pretty much went right into "Young Men Dead." Whether it a kind of inside joke to play "Bad Vibrations" right after that or a way to avoid the obvious joke, it was amusing to observe the two great songs so close together, even though one wasn't even part of the set.
The show last night offered a bit of a sneak peek at the band's upcoming album, which is due out this spring. The new material seems even more focused in some ways that past efforts, particularly on "Indigo Meadow," the only new song named during the show. The band is clearly honing its songwriting, exploring tighter dynamics in certain parts of songs without losing the expansive atmospheres that came with the material for Directions to See a Ghost.
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For "Entrance Song," the wordless vocals in the middle sounded psychedelicized Native American chants, which fit in with one of the new songs (the seventh of the set) where the rhythm was like something the Doors might have done in a martial mode -- think "The Unknown Soldier," only less spooky and introverted and ultimately going in a different sonic direction once the song got going. For "The Prodigal Sun" there was a lot of delay on the drums, and it gave the song a more pleasantly disorienting rhythm than seemed obvious on the studio version of the song. The main set ended with one of the newer numbers.
When the band came back out for an encore, it began with "Mission District," a song whose middle section recalls Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" in the dynamics and dark atmospherics. For "Manipulation," the background projection had a pattern that looked like something that should have been in Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain.
The set would have ended with "You On the Run," but the group stayed on stage with Rishi Dhir and Kyle Hunt picking up on the sonic cues for Dhir to keep playing sitar while Hunt fed in keyboard parts for what sounded like an expanded version of "Snake In the Grass," which flowed in and out like tides. As most of the band left the stage, Dhir played an outro of sorts with some solo sitar sounds. Perfect.
Personal Bias: Ever since picking up Passover on a whim in 2006, the Black Angels has become one of my favorite modern bands.
Random Detail: The background projections were excellent throughout the show and enhanced the experience of the music.
By the Way: All three Black Angels albums were available on high quality vinyl at this show.
The Black Angels Bluebird Theater - 12/30/12 Denver, CO
Young Men Dead Bad Vibrations Entrance Song new song ("She said don't play with guns") The Sniper The First Vietnamese War new song ("It's hard to kill when you don't know what side you're on") Better Off Alone Phosphene Dream Indigo Meadow Haunting at 1300 McKinley Black Grease [?] The Prodigal Sun new song ("Hey little darling, you're a dreamer)
Mission District Manipulation You On the Run Snake In the Grass
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