! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Even though they are few and far between, every once in a while a band with lasting power comes out of nowhere. The Black Angels is certainly one of them. At this point, they have been around long enough to release three LPs while continuing to steadily grow in popularity, but they still seem like a recent discovery. The group was just here in November, but that didn’t stop fans from filling up the Showbox for their appearance. From the moment that they climbed aboard the stage on Tuesday evening, Austin’s best psychedelic entourage had the audience in a drugged out trance.
Amidst a black and white backdrop and heavy strobe lights, The Black Angels were captivating no matter what substances anybody was under the influence of. Their first record, the Velvet Underground meets Thirteenth Floor Elevators meets Spacemen 3 masterpiece, Passover, was well represented in the setlist. The filthy, droning “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven” sounded as good as ever and the immortal dirge “Black Grease,” with its angry, loosely anti-war “kill kill kill kill” refrain was moving. Singer, Alex Maas, was pouring himself into this one, as always.
Personally, their second album, Directions to See a Ghost, is the one at the top of my list. It is sonically spacier than the first record and is the most dynamic of their releases. For instance, “You on the Run” is a slow, driving number that contains all of the elements that make The Black Angels great: cavernous echo, tribal drumming and hypnotic bass. It goes without saying that the live rendition was one of the highlights. “Science Killer,” with its wonderful cadence led by the rhythm section was also performed. The lights and the backdrop made the Showbox seem like the stage was spinning.
Several tracks from the recent, poppier Phosphene Dream LP were interspersed amongst the older favorites. Even though the record has more of a 1960s pop feel to it and is a few shades darker than its predecessors, the material all gelled together in a uniform performance. Of the newer songs, the concert and album opener “Bad Vibrations” was not only a good song to begin with, but also a fitting way to take command of the stage. “Telephone,” which sounds like it should have been a hit for someone 45 years ago, was given a slightly rougher, louder stomp than the album version. The tracks from Phosphene Dream were altogether grimier sounding than on record.
There are a few gaps in the setlist. If anyone knows what songs I am missing, please comment below.
The Prodigal Sun
The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven
Haunting at 1300 McKinley
You on the Run
Young Men Dead
You In Color