Excitement was the mood in Chicago’s relatively new – yet completely fun and well designed - Lincoln Hall; as the band Black Mountain was gearing to take the stage, smoke machines billowed and signaled the band’s imminent arrive. It wasn’t a sold out crowd, but not too far off, creating for that terrific balance of crowd-energy yet with a bit of precious personal space.
Black Mountain brings to the table a sort of catchy, and at times funky, psychedelic rock n’ roll. And while they at times anchor their sound in the blues, unlike many other “traditional” psych bands, they gladly will replace that with a more funky and/or progressive sound. They seem to like the challenge, which they usually conquer, of morphing psych-rock playfully with other genres. And while they use development and evolution in their songs, they are usually progress leisurely, in what amounts to a deceptively natural manner.
On this night they played a fairly even mix of material from their first two albums, Black Mountain and In The Future, and unreleased material to was new to the audience. They were at their best sounding when they played powerful and direct, yet with a subtle overall sound. This reflects their philosophy well because they often mix and match their male and female vocalists, and always employ a lot of detailed sounds in their compositions. In fact, they have the ability to overlap their two opposite sexed vocalists most perfectly, creating a delightful new and singular voice. It really stood out in their live show. It was on such tracks such as “Queens Will Play” and “Druganaught” in which they exemplified these first-rate attributes and created for some of the best musical moments of this Thursday evening.
Yet, while they delivered a night filled with high level of musicianship and displayed that which has allowed them to create two solid albums, there was something about their performance on this evening that led me to think this band’s talent may lie more so in creating albums as opposed to playing live shows. At times the singing came off as preachy and at other times one found themselves being slightly fatigued by these songs, which isn’t what happens when listened from off their record. It was on such songs as, “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around”, a rich & building stompy rock song, which positively leaps off the record when played at home, but somehow was just slightly vapid live.
But that being said, their live show not living up to their albums is only a valid observation because their two released albums really are extraordinary. They are delicate, fun-loving, yet truly unyielding psychedelic rock expressions. And this being the first time this author has taken in their talents live, one has to give them a benefit of the doubt, anyone can have an off night. Either way though, I can’t wait until that new material I heard comes out in album form…
By Sean Brna