Pentagram Concert Review – Emo’s, Austin, TX – 070609
Pentagram, Outlaw Order, Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, Minsk, The Roller – Emo’s, Austin, TX 070609
I’m pretty sure it was Daniel who turned me on to Pentagram In 1987 when he bought Day of Reckoning on cassette. It had a cool cover of a mausoleum. I had seen it advertised in the ‘zines but never bothered with it. As stated a zillion times before, my parents weren’t so keen on the whole metal thing and this one would have surely gotten mom’s attention just by the name of the band. I had Daniel dub it for me and I just had it titled “Day of Reckoning” on the cassette with no song titles or anything else. Hey, we had to play it safe. I simply adore this album. Very Sabbathy without some of the heaviness of Iommi’s tone. Although Victor Griffin really lifted a lot from Iommi, he took that style to another level. They only other comparable band from that era that was pulling this off was Trouble.
I wanted to see Pentagram live and tried a few times in the mid-to-late 90’s but it seemed that every time I wanted to go up to the Baltimore/DC area to see them, they cancelled. Typically because of Liebling’s drug and alcohol abuse coupled with his frail mental and physical states. Sad but I have no sympathy.
In 2000 I went to Jaxx in Springfield, VA to see Raven/UDO. Joe Hasselvander was drumming for Raven and we talked Pentagram for a while. He told me some trippy stories about playing with Bobby.
Flash forward to about 2 months ago. I heard Pentagram was doing a handful of shows in the US and that the final one was in Austin. Seriously? Pentagram? Here? I got my ticket the day they went on sale as I expected it to sell out. My friend Jasmine had seen them a few months prior in NYC and she said they were great so I was really excited to finally see them. In recent years they have used the drummer from Spirit Caravan, Gary Isom and a good guitar player named Russ Strahan. Not sure who he and the player may have played with before but they sounded fine.
So for the last 6 weeks or so I have been super excited. I finally (hopefully) get to see a band I have wanted to see for 22 years!
I head downtown around 730 or so and go to the Jackalope for a burger (the best!) and a few beers. Gary from Mala Suerte and Noah stop in and hang out for a bit. After we finish, we head over to Emo’s for the show. I go in and check out the Pentagram merch booth. Talking to the girl who works it, Nancy, we had a few friends in common from the east coast. I end up buying both styles of the Pentagram shirts as they don’t sell the XXL versions on the website. Yea! Just what I needed, more black t-shirts!
Local doom/sludge band The Roller opens the show on the outside stage. I’ve seen them several times and they do their thing well. Halfway through their set I go inside to get a beer and some A/C and check out Minsk from Chicago. Not really my thing but I guess they are alright. I liked that sound better when Tiamat was doing it 15 years ago. Haha. Just kidding guys…sorta. Now let’s take into account that I have been up since 530AM and it’s around 10PM. I’m a little tired. So I go outside and sit for a while and see some friends, shoot the shit, check out some nice asses…you know, the usual. Outlaw Order (EYEHATEGOD) were setting up and I found a place in the back of the venue and sat down for their set. It wasn’t too bad, a little better than their EYEHATEGOD stuff. I was comfortable on the bench and didn’t go back in to check out Wolves In The Throne Room. Noah said they were good and he bought the 12” of their latest. Shortly after Wolves finished inside, Nachtmystium took the stage outside. Death metal, upbeat, double bass, fist pounding type stuff. Not bad, nothing groundbreaking.
Then Pentagram sets up. Pretty decent crowd. I estimated about 400 or so but definitely not a sellout. I expected more. So Pentagram hits the stage. Bobby looks old. Well, Bobby is old. His voice sounded like shit in the first song. Absolutely awful. I wonder how it was for the other shows? It got a little better towards the middle of the set but he was obviously hurting. I understand it. Singers can’t always be 100% and with Bobby Liebling I imagine you never know what you’ll get. He looked really frail but was very mobile. He seemed to get all the words right. When he spoke between songs, though, he sounded like Keith Richards. Couldn’t understand much of what he was saying except when he said “I fucking love you guys!” He said that about 10 times. Right on, Bobby. The band was tight and Russ’ guitar playing was good. Nice tone, good licks…a fitting guitarist for Pentagram.
But I do have to say I was a little disappointed overall. I guess maybe because of the setlist. Having never seen them live, I don’t know what they would usually play, but I expected more stuff from Day of Reckoning. As previously stated, I love that album. At minimum I wanted to hear Burning Savior. The only thing we got from that one was When The Screams Come. Great song, sure, but it’s no Burning Savior. They played 3 from Relentless: All Your Sins, Sign of the Wolf (Pentagram) and 20 Buck Spin. I never cared for 20 Buck Spin but love the other 2 tracks. They also played Petrified from Be Forewarned. There were a few new songs from an upcoming album called Last Rites but I can’t say they were very memorable. There were a few others in the set that I didn’t recognize as well. But where was “Living In a Ram’s Head”? I think in total we only got about 10 or 11 songs. It seemed as if they wanted to play more during their encore but he stated “They said this has to be our last song of the night.” The crowd near the front seemed pretty into it. A lot of people singing along and such. When I didn’t like was seeing all of the beer cans being thrown around. I’ve been hit while playing and it sucks. Also, WTF was with the crowd surfing? Stupid kids.
The merch girl told me that Bobby usually comes out to sign stuff after the show and as always, I came armed and ready with CD covers…but at the end of the show, I just wanted to go home. I was tired, hot, sweaty, disappointed and deflated. One guy I know said “You should be happy that you got to see a legend. What did you expect?” I guess I expected a better setlist, but that is my fault, not Pentagram’s. The sound in there was pretty shitty too which didn’t help much. Bobby complained several times at the beginning of the set to turn his monitors up. Like I said, his vocals got a little better as the show progressed but he just sounded beat and tired. Decades of self-abuse with drugs etc have taken their toll. In a way I sort of wish I would have stuck around to see if Bobby was signing stuff as I’ll likely not get that chance again. Oh well.
I was going to write this review last night when I got home but my emotions were still high. I think I gave a better and more level-headed review by waiting. I am glad I got to see them even if my expectations weren’t met.
I have attached a setlist from one of the Chicago shows. I assume this is what we got last night with the encore songs being reversed.
Enjoy the vids too!
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