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The Black Angels - The Haunt, Brighton - June 25 2013 (Live Review)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

Named after a Velvet Underground song, the Black Angels hail from Austin, Texas and are firmly established in the American psychedelic rock scene. Curators of the annual Austin Psych Fest, they have put on the likes of Pink Mountaintops, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Raveonettes in recent years.

Following the release of their fourth studio album, ‘Indigo Meadow’, the band embarked on an extensive US tour and have now brought their show to Europe, including an impending appearance at Glastonbury.  Tonight’s venue, The Haunt – an old cinema opposite Brighton Pier – is building a reputation as one of the city’s newest and most intimate gig settings. The House Of Love, Ash, Athlete and the XX have all played the place, to modest capacity crowds of just 300-400. 

The Black Angels draw heavily from the late 1960s psychedelia scene, attracting a large cult following similar to their close friends in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, with whom they have occasionally shared a stage.  Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are another band that attract comparisons, with there being ties between all three groups.

The appearance of lead singer Alex Maas, with his trademark full dark beard and peaked cap, sparks a few cheers and shouts as the band take to the stage, before launching into opener Vikings.

Lifted from their second album, ‘Directions To See A Ghost’, the tribal drum beat driving the track is performed by expressionless (throughout the entire set) female drummer Stephanie Bailey.

‘Indigo Meadow’ is well represented on the setlist with around ten of its 13 tracks covered, and the first of these arrives in the shape of the more up tempo I Hear Colors, with its rolling drum intro.  Don’t Play With Guns then continues the faster beat to produce an early highlight, with its ‘horror-shock’ keyboard effect complemented by Maas’ fuzzy bass.

Another of the new album’s strongest tracks follows soon after, the excellent Evil Things. Introduced by that thick, fuzzy bass once again and containing some classic Doors-sounding keyboards, the song highlights a strength of the band as Maas switches effortlessly between bass, Vox Jaguar keyboard and various percussion instruments including maracas and tambourine.

More ‘Indigo Meadow’ tracks appear, including the title track, but among them lies Telephone, a sub-two minute number from third album ‘Phosphene Dream’, and it’s the songs from this album that appear to be the biggest hits with the crowd.  Twisted Light, another new track, gives Maas a break from lead vocals as guitarist Christian Bland takes over.

Two more ‘Phosphene Dream’ tracks then send the crowd into raptures – firstly Yellow Elevator #2, then the brilliant Haunting At 1300 McKinley. Broken Soldier restores the steady, consistent pounding drum beat to proceedings, with its haunting line, “it’s hard to kill when you don’t know whose side you’re on”, leading into a thunderous burst of drums.

The set draws to a close with two album openers, a belting rendition of Bad Vibrations from ‘Phosphene Dream’ - which invokes moshing from eight or nine over-enthusiastic sorts - and then Young Men Dead from the band’s debut album ‘Passover’, its distinctive riff leading into slow, fuzzy textures that deafen the appreciative crowd.

Following a quick break, the band return to deliver a handful of encore numbers that culminate in a superb version of Black Isn’t Black, the ‘Indigo Meadow’ album closer. The track doesn’t quite work in its studio form, but sounds epic and vital in its drawn out live setting. Glastonbury goers, seek them out – you won’t be disappointed.



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