Pentagram at Summit Music Hall, 2/28/14: Review and Photos
Pentagram took the stage with a spooky soundscape coming through the PA, Bobby Liebling looking like a puppet woken up from a nap and blinking. He was all but twitching to life, pulled along by invisible strings. But when Liebling took the mic, an instantly commanding voice issued forth. He is one of the few rock singers able to combine and synthesize a sense of theater and performance with raw, emotional honesty. He expresses an idiosyncratic poetic sensibility channeled from dark places in his heart and mind. Sure, those wide, wild eyes and waggling tongue and left-handed air guitar all seem odd and almost amusing, but the guy captures your attention from the moment he takes the stage.
It was interesting to see was the recent return of longtime Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin, who laid out the meaty guitar work of the band with assurance and power, linking perfectly in rhythm with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley. Half of the set was drawn from the band's 1985, self-titled debut, but Pentagram didn't just rest on their early laurels. Even a song like "8" from 2011's Last Rites fits right in with the classics in terms of quality songwriting.
Sure, he made hilariously crass yet strangely poetic plays for various women in the crowd. But his words, weaving stories of sin, redemption, cosmic peril, love and existential insight proved those trivialities an act. Liebling may have clowned around a bit during the set, but he contrasted that with a focused intensity; he never wavered on the vocals. In the encore the band performed "Be Forewarned," and the imagery of despair reaching to the core of the psyche was still chilling.
The show opened with Denver's Space in Time. Anyone who has seen the band before knows to expect excellent. But it sounded like Mike Atencio has been taking voice lessons or practicing a lot in the off-stage hours. He rocked back and forth and gestured dramatically in a way that is also effective for Ozzy Osbourne, but his control and expressiveness were exceptional even by his own high standards. The rest of the band synched perfectly in rhythm. You could see Javram Ciel-Tilton facing Yancy Green and Charly Miller, and that section of the band established a dynamic rhythm that worked perfectly with Atencio's phrasing and Vaughn McPherson's ghostly, yet bright, keyboard work. Yes, that early '70s hard rock sound was there, but Space in Time make it live and breathe today.
Kings Destroy from New York City was, at a glance, yet another doom rock band. But the shimmer and texture of one guitar against the grit and grind and muscle of the other guitar played with the rhythm section in genre-breaking ways. Steve Murphy's vocals were reminiscent of that of Ian Astbury but more gruff and less melodramatic. The contrast of it all was somewhat reminiscent of Soundgarden, but based more in metal than punk. In some of the guitar work was the aesthetics of thrash but slowed down, and that proved a strong technique, expertly employed. Kings Destroy also managed to inject its slowed-down pace with an upswing of energy throughout its set.