Most shows you go to, there’s usually one band that you’re looking forward to more than the other. However, last Friday was definitely not one of those nights, at least for this reviewer. Two stellar bands from the South and Southwest respectively, the Black Lips and headliner Black Angels, descended on the Civic Theatre to showcase their powerful, albeit very different, sounds in one epic bill. Opening the show, the Black Lips exploded onto the stage for an hour-long set that filled the hall with their raucous brand of punk rock.
I’ve been a fan of them for quite a few years now, and while I can’t name you more than a few of their best tracks, it doesn’t really matter. The energy is so strong and vibrant that even a casual fan can get caught up in their energy. One of the main highlights was, of course, their ode to our beautiful city, “O’ Katrina,” which seemed to envelope the crowd, even if attendance was far below what it should have been. The band, made up ofCole Alexander on vocals and guitar work; Jared Swilley, singing and bass; Oakley Munsonproviding drum support; Zumi Rosow basically killing it on saxophone; and another fourth member joining the chaos, the outfit tore through nearly 20 songs during their set (it could be said that this was more of a coheadliner-type setup, with both bands playing mostly full sets). They never strayed too far from their punk roots, but they were clearly having a great time doing what they do, even if you could tell they may have had a few drinks beforehand.
Next up was the closer of the evening, the one and only Black Angels. Coming to us from Austin, Texas, the band has been around for years now, with five albums under their belt. The five-piece, with Alex Maas at the helm on vocals and piano, railed through a 90-minute set, showcasing their deep, earthy tones with brilliant, mind-blowing visuals to boot. There really wasn’t a bad song presented, even though the lack of “I’d Kill for Her” was a minor disappointment. Opening with probably their best-known song, “Young Men Dead,” was a great surprise that started the show off with a bang.
There’s something very entrancing about their sound, much like a dark, night sky illuminated by the stars in a ghostly small town somewhere in Texas. They have this quality that is at times both pure escapism and contained carnage, like a slow methodical stalker in the night. They are touring in support of last year’s brilliant Death Song,and many of those tracks comprised the setlist. Closer “Currency” was given a huge increase in terms of crowd acknowledgement, but other songs like the mesmerizing “Half Believing” or the bombastic “Comanche Man” never let the crowd lose grasp of the power of this band.
Having said that, the sound mix for both acts could have been way better, not that this was the bands’ fault in any way. Overall though, both bands delivered their sets with the potency you would expect if you’ve seen either before. Although I wish more people had shown up to witness this amazing show, it did feel a little bit more special, like being part of a privileged club. In short, definitely don’t sleep on either of these acts if you get the chance to see them. It was a great night with tons of great music to be shared.
Photos by Steve Hatley