Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Black Angels and Black Mountain at the El Rey, 11/24/2010

If not for that Deftones/Mastodon show, this would have been easily the heaviest pairing I saw all year, and certainly the most throwback.  Both bands are firmly entrenched in the late 60's to early 70's, though they take different approaches.  The Black Angels go for the psychedelic, while Black Mountain can be the best Black Sabbath emulators around.

I love Black Mountain, not least because of the aforementioned similarities to one of my favorite bands of all time, but the Black Angels were new to me.  I usually prefer to scope a band out on record before seeing them live, since it can be hard to fully appreciate songs you've never heard before, and if I like them live I just end up going and getting their album and wanting to see them again right away.  That's definitely what happened here, with their droney, heavy sound sucking me in right away with opener "Bad Vibrations."  The only false note of their set happened to be the same song I have an issue with on Phosphene Dream, the radio-baiting "Telephone."  In a sea of pounding drums, spacey guitars and buzzing synths, the borderline warmed-over Monkees feel of the song grated badly against what made the rest of the show so good.

As for Black Mountain, they were thunderous as always, but on their newest release they've embraced the acoustic side of things, which led to a mellow interlude of "Buried by the Blues" and "Sadie" after the bombast of "Tyrants."  After that, though, it was right back to the heavy, with an extended version of "Druganaut" and then the Sabbath-loving "Don't Run Our Hearts Around."  Lead singer and guitarist Stephen McBean was in top form in his customary position to the left of singer Amber Webber, grooving away with a steady rocking motion, never getting too demonstrative.  Webber, who has started to assume even more lead vocal duties, unfortunately continued her usual shyness, frequently looking away from the crowd and holding back on her bigger moments despite possessing an incredible voice.  Her voice paired with McBean's, singing on such heavy songs, is a large part of Black Mountain's appeal, bringing a layer of beauty they might otherwise lack, so it's always disappointing when she holds herself back.

Still, it was a rollicking set, even if it seemed to end abruptly after a two song encore of "The Hair Song" and "Stormy High."  I may have missed the 70's by a fair stretch, but on this night I felt I knew what it would be like to have been there.

Black Mountain Set List: Wilderness Heart / Let Spirits Ride / Wucan / Tyrants / Buried by the Blues / Sadie / Angels / Druganaut / Old Fangs / Rollercoaster / Don't Run Our Hearts Around

Encore: The Hair Song / Stormy High

Photos by Timothy Norris, LA Weekly

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