The Black Angels @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 15/06/13
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to interview Alex Maas of The Black Angels in anticipation of their Sydney show at the Enmore. Back then my excitement was palpable but as the days slowly ticked by I thought I was going to explode. Finally, it was the 15th and after looking forward to this show for so long, knowing I’d have to review it, going through all kinds of intros in my head; and all I can say is…holy shit! I mean holy shit! I’d be happy to get up now and walk away from the computer, hands raised, and that’d be it. But in the interest of professionalism I should probably continue.
I got there in time to catch The Laurels as I’ve been a fan of the band for quite a while and haven’t caught them since the release of their long awaited debut LP Plains. Fresh off the back of their shows as part of the Austin Psych Fest, The Laurels, as usual, didn’t disappoint. The yin-yang guitar combo of Peirs Cornelius and Luke O’Farrel is always great; Peirs being happy to sit back while Luke makes full use of his little circle of space carved out amid the myriad of wires and pedals. Speaking of wires and pedals, one of my favourite things about their set was the way they incorporated tunes off their new LP into their live sound. This was best exemplified by their single ‘Changing the Timeline’, which on the album is very conducive to the more restrained, stripped-back production which is a hallmark of Plains. Live however, the band brings that signature, ear-splittingly loud Laurels wall of sound I’ve come to love so much. Great start to a great night.
After a few beers and a chat it was the moment I’d been waiting for. I’d seen The Black Angels once before at the Metro when they first came to Australia in 2011 touring Phosphene Dream. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect this time round as they’d been out as recently as November last year for Harvest Festival and I hadn’t seen them since the release of the much heavier and more direct Indigo Meadow. And not to cover well-trodden ground again but… ho-ly shit!
When I interviewed Alex one of the things I asked him was about choosing a set list and not wanting to leave anything out. Well instead of leaving anything out it seems as if the band just decided to include the lot of it, playing a great variety of songs from all four albums and punctuating everything with that new heavier sound. They opened their set with ‘Vikings’, easing the crowd into the night and then they just obliterated ears with ‘I Hear Colors’ and ‘Don’t Play with Guns’ off/from Indigo Meadow. Then not long after was my personal favourite from the new album, ‘Evil Things’. Actually come to think of it, the most memorable songs from their set were mostly off the new album. That isn’t to say that old favourites like ‘Young Men Dead’ and ‘The Sniper’ didn’t come off well, its just that the newer ones seemed to sit better with the way the band is playing these days.
I feel like the line-up change has been a good thing for The Black Angels, everyone seems to be much more malleable than before. Alex Maas along with his amazing set of pipes was seen jumping between keys and bass and the odd track on guitar while the rest of the band were feeding off a new energy I haven’t seen them perform with before. Couple this with the amazing visuals and you have an incredibly engaging live show that had an impact on all five of my senses (note: some douche bag was burning hair and you know when a smell gets into your mouth and… argh). Anyway, it was a show not to be missed. With an awesome solo performance of ‘Ronettes’ by Maas and the exhilarating closer that is ‘Black isn’t Black’, I don’t know if The Black Angels could have taken me on a better trip.