Black Mountain @ Troubadour, 2/05/08

Anticipation inside The Troubadour was buzzing. I, myself, had been waiting three years to see Black Mountain. All the friends I had brought with me were as ready as I was. The crowd swelled around us, as did the celebrity quotient. Drea De Matteo and Shooter Jennings were there. As was Chris Robinson, Rick Rubin, and the brothers Gallagher (Oasis). We were all grins as they took to stage playing “Stormy High”, the opening track off of their second album, Into the Future.
Seeing Amber Webber at the head of the stage was delightful. Her vocals are featured more prominently on the new album. This is an admirable decision by the band’s “leader” Stephen McBean. I had always felt she was too much of a background player on the band’s self-titled debut. Webbers’ vocals rose to a shine early during the very spooky, mood-drenched “Queens Will Play”…a taste of more to come.

Jeremy Schmidt, the man on keys, has a style that’s transfixing. It’s almost as if Ray Manzereck was fused with John Paul Jones. His playing is not overly brooding, but just enough to set the tone of where the band is trying to take us. His synth work is like a vessel we’re encapsulated in. You’re somewhat frightened, yet relatively snug and warm. This especially takes precedence during the epic “Wucan” taking place later in the set. It’s a song that really shows the strong points of all members of the band. McBean’s Osbourne-like vocals coupled with Webbers’ complimentary backing tones are perfect. Bassist Matt Camirand goes back and forth between subtle rhythms to reverb-drenched notes, driving the song in an irresistible direction.

’BlackWebbers’ quivering vocal work on “Tyrants” conjures up memories of a young and radiant Grace Slick. Played live it comes off as a drivingly epic tune. This was a mid-set song that got the crowd absolutely reeling, crisscrossing back and forth between ballad and pure rock and roll. Webber and McBean trade off lyrics like pure soul mates. Drummer Joshua Wells starts off the epic jam with so much force, only to restrain himself abruptly for the slower portions. All night he delivered. Any drummer in the crowd, including myself, would concur .

Thankfully the Troubadour crowd got a breather during a very beautiful rendition of “Stay Free”, a more acoustic ballad between McBean and Webber. This led way into the frenzy of “Druganaut”. To hear Webber sing the ringing lyrics “Lighten up the sky” is a sight to see. Coupled with her rocking out to the whole bands’ licks…it would make any man swoon.

What can one say about “Bright Lights”? It’s like they harnessed the ghost of Sergio Leone and shook it until Rock and Roll came out of it. On the album it clocks in at 16 minutes plus, but at the show, for us, it clocked in at who the hell knows. I was so entranced by the magnitude of how the band meshed with each other; a fluidity that I haven’t seen in a long time. Pulsating drones from McBean, Schmidt, and Camirand took the crowd over like stream-of-consciousness held together by Wells’ constantly shifting backbeats. The song took the audience on a journey that could rival any that Pink Floyd could muster–at least these days. In the end, Webbers’ and McBean’s vocals were that of a multitude of evil archangels screaming to be let back into heaven.

I looked back at the crowd at this point for validation. What I saw was exactly that. Everyone was into it–wanting more as much as I. After “Wucan” came “No Hits”, a song I had come to find out at the show had been remixed by the amazing U.N.K.L.E. recently. “No Hits” has a driving beat that flawlessly accentuated by the rhythm section. The crowd clapped right along throughout the various drums and ambient noise provided by Wells, Schmidt and Camirand.

I’ve been going to the world famous Troubadour for a long time now (close to 15 years) and in that time, I’ve gotten to know the staff there pretty well. Never before have I seen Michael, a Troubadour bouncer for 24 years, get up on-stage to welcome a band back for an encore. The crowd went apeshit as Black Mountain came back on-stage, thanking the crowd for supporting them. They closed the show with “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around”. We thanked them by going all out. After the show I spoke with Alisha, a bartender that’s been there for some time. I asked her what she thought of the show, and she simply replied, “I’m fucking speechless.”

I couldn’t have agreed more.