Monday, March 09, 2009

Pentagram at Webster Hall

Truly a rich vein of commentary material at Friday night's show:

By appearance alone, first opener The Devil's Blood would seem to make a good companion to the metalgaze bands that have made metal acceptable to music elitist society again: a crop of hipsters, a mix of guitar types; even a guy with a Flying-V type axe and corpse paint who seemed to be filling the band's evil quotient. However, as those previously unfamiliar with the band's material quickly discovered, The Devil's Blood aren't metalgaze; they are - to reclaim a term of ancient and disused lineage - hard rock. Well, sort of. Hard rock if hipsters played hard rock, which might be even more of an ironic contradiction than hipsters playing metal. Hard rock gaze, I guess.

Their music was incredibly unimpressive, with guitar interludes that had all the length of an Allman Brothers' live performance with none of the inspiration. Their singer...well, she was impressive, but not because she was good: her voice and its Klaus Meine-like pitch added to the band's hard rock glaze, while her complete and utter lack of stage presence sucked that much more energy out of the room. While singing, she would stand stock-still in front of her microphone stand, her face frozen in a mask whose rigid, unmoving lines seemed crafted by botox. During the interludes between lyrics, she would stare off into the roof of the room, her pose making her seem more statue than human.

All of that made the night weird enough, but then Pentagram upped the ante with vocalist Bobby Liebling, whose appearance and behavior was such an amalgam of oddity that I've taken to describing him in absurb collections of characteristics: imagine an old man built like Dio, with long hair that bushes out towards his shoulders like it's been zapped into place. He sports a pornstar mustache, wide staring eyes (and quite possibly a strong urge to fly), and an angular face. His rail-thin body and impossibly pale skin are clothed in tight pants of some dark color and a paisley shirt that must have last seen the light of day in 1983. He is having the time of his life: thrusting his hips like Elvis, jerking around like Captain Jack Sparrow, sounding like an American version of Ozzy Osbourne when he talks. He is a sex zombie singer, a member of the walking dead entertainers, a scary looking mofo who's only gotten creepier with age, a guy who is absolutely fascinating to watch as he meanders - with a voice that sounds the same as it did on recordings from 30 years ago no less - through the tremendous wall of noise his band puts up.

So, in sum: weird show. Pentagram is a fun band to see, but man...I'm going to remember that set for all of the odd reasons.

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