Concert Review: Black Mountain, The Black Angels, October 31, Phoenix Concert Theatre

Toronto – Halloween shows can be a pretty fun time.  You get to see people who’ve gone to the effort of wearing a costume to the show (note: this was not me) and if you’re lucky, the bands will be in costume as well.  This can often make for an even better performance and in some cases, the costumes instigate themed musical performances as well.  Famous examples of these include Ted Leo and friends dressing up as The Misfits in order to play their songs or Mr. Bungle dressing up as and mocking The Red Hot Chili Peppers because Mike Patton had some kind of beef with them.  There were no such themed performances this night, but both bands did wear costumes and each of them play music that certainly lends itself to being played on All Hallows Eve.   

The Black Angels are a band that seems to be getting a fair bit of hype these days.  I’ve been aware of them for a few years now, but I never paid that much attention so I figured this is my chance to see what they’re all about.  I liked what I heard  of them before the show and their psychedelic, drone-filled, bluesy tunes went over fairly well, but something about their show left me slightly unimpressed.  They were not bad by any means and I imagine that if I were more familiar with their repertoire I’d be more into it, but I got the feeling that their set was a bit too long and samey.  Maybe it was the fact that I was really tired, or maybe it was the creepy old hag mask that singer Alex Maas was wearing.  Still, their song, “Telephone” is a pretty rockin’ tune and they seem like the kind of band I usually do like so I might be inclined to give them another chance one day.  Here’s their setlist.

Black Mountain, on the other hand, totally impressed me.  I’ve seen them a couple of times before and this was one of the better sets I’ve seen from them.  The band took to the stage wearing military themed costumes.  I like that they all stuck to a theme – even their sound guy was taking part – and they were obviously having a lot of fun with it.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what their costumes were about exactly.  Were they supposed to be the cast of Platoon?  Or military zombies?  If zombies, did they get that way from eating contaminated “taco meat” from the army surplus store?

I don’t know if it was the costumes or what, but they certainly delivered onstage.  Keyboardist (and awesome cover art designer)  Jeremy Schmidt added all kinds of tasty synth flavour throughout the evening, satisfying my need for all things proggish, and vocalist Amber Webber was totally impressive.  In fact, I don’t remember Webber being this awesome before.  I don’t know if it was the fact that she was situated at centre stage or maybe it was just the nature of the newer songs off Wilderness Heart highlighting her strengths, but she seemed to be really high energy.  Hell, it could have even been the costume.  Whatever it was, her vocals really shone through.

Stephen McBean certainly gave his bandmates every opportunity to shine.  He’s always seemed like kind of a laid back guy, but I can’t recall him saying much of anything during the show.  He just hung back and sang his songs.  Then again, the band didn’t say much as a whole, preferring to let the music do the talking.   Well, that and the costumes.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything