Review by Andrew Bansal, photos by Matt Nielson
February 15th 2017, The Regent, Los Angeles CA: Following his appearance at the Psycho Las Vegas festival in 2016, Arthur Brown, the pioneer of all things shock/acid/psychedelic rock, as hard as it may be to believe, has returned to the United States for his first tour in the country in 47 years, thanks to the same folks behind Psycho Entertainment who brought him to Las Vegas last year. Along with Electric Citizen as opening act on all shows and additional support differing by territory, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown started this short 8-show run with the first gig at the Regent in downtown Los Angeles last night. It is safe to say that owing to the 47-year gap, not many in attendance had any frame of reference whatsoever or had experienced Arthur Brown live prior. That said, expectations were sky-high, but no first-timer could have predicted the brilliance of what they would end up witnessing.
Doors for the general public opened at 8 PM, and there was some confusion as the schedule at the box office had the show starting at 8 and both opening acts slated for one-hour sets, which was eventually not the case. At 8:30, Cincinnati, Ohio stoner metal quartet Electric Citizen hit the stage for a righteous 30-minute set that more than lived up to the reputation they developed for themselves through their previous three appearances in the LA area, opening for Wolfmother at (the now defunct) House of Blues and headlining Complex and Non-Plus Ultra. This was their first time on a stage of this size. Fronted by ultra-energetic and expressive vocalist Laura Dolan who channeled all her Ozzy Osbourne and Bobby Liebling influences, and equally powered by the mighty fine efforts of Randy Proctor (bass), Nate Wagner (drums) and Ross Dolan (guitar/not the dude from Immolaton), they proved that they truly belong on the big stage, with their dynamic brand of Sabbath-worshipping heaviness that resonated across the Regent just as strongly as it did in much smaller rooms in the past.
Playing several tunes off of their sophomore full-length ‘Higher Time’ (2016) and a few from the debut LP ‘Sateen’ (2014), Electric Citizen kept the crowd engaged, and as the venue filled in, more people gravitated closer to the stage, the most telling sign of a good opening band. If there was one band that deserved to open for Arthur Brown on this tour, it is Electric Citizen.
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Next up at around 9:30 were New York City psych rock act White Hills. Formed in 2005 and boasting a highly prolific career already with over 40 releases, White Hills was an unknown entity to most in the audience but a select few were already familiar with and fans of this band. They played for about 45 minutes, although it seemed a lot longer because of the highly repetitive nature of their songs. They were definitely in their heavily fuzzed-out zone but they did not quite succeed in compelling the audience to enter that zone with them.
As the set progressed, more and more attendees were getting impatient and restless, and retreated to the adjoining bar, restaurant or smoking patio. White Hills should have likely been better-received had they played a shorter set. Their music certainly has its niche, but you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground. They would be more appropriate to open for bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard rather than someone like Arthur Brown. But in the world of live music, first impressions are not the be-all and end-all, and on another occasion, White Hills will probably make a better impact.
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As the clock struck 11, the moment all in attendance were awaiting had finally arrived, as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown took the stage. This has easily been the most eagerly anticipated LA show of 2017 so far, as ever since this tour was announced, a sizable section of the Los Angeles heavy music community held its breath and waited excitedly for this moment. Arthur Brown’s band mates started things off with an instrumental segment, and the frontman himself walked onto the stage to raise the roof off this place, such was the excitement level.
Opening with the title track of the latest album ‘Zim Zam Zim’, the band went on to play a set similar to what they did in Las Vegas last year, a blend of recent material, classics and fantastic cover renditions of songs like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell on You’. The music and theatricality of Arthur Brown dates back to the mid ’60s, precedes heavy metal, and can truly be heralded as pioneering and revolutionary in more ways than one. Attendees may not have been familiar with all of the music played on stage, and may not have even been fans of some of the musical style, but such was the captivating, magical performance that every single note was thoroughly enjoyable for one and all.
Getting to witness an Arthur Brown show in the year 2017 is a privilege in itself, but more than the music itself and the multiple costume changes, what really blew minds here was Brown’s singing, his ability to hit the high, low and mid-range notes even at the age of 74, and the sheer agility and energy on stage with which he was able to deliver the same kind of show he was known for in his much younger days. He puts singers 20-30 years younger than him to absolute shame. Once again, just as a few other elder statesmen in rock and metal have proved in recent years, Arthur Brown showed that there should be no such thing as an “old man pass”, and fanboys should stop making excuses for musicians just because they’re old.
Arthur Brown fronted the show masterfully through his various costume changes, and one could clearly see where the likes of Alice Cooper, KISS, King Diamond, and even Bruce Dickinson, got their inspiration from. One of the major highlights, and the trippiest segment of the set, was him dressed in LEDs during the song ‘The Unknown’. Even those in a clear, sober state of mind were tripping into distant planets, stunned and hypnotized by what was transpiring on stage. The performance strengthened its grip on the audience further and further as it went on, and reached its release point when Arthur Brown lit his head on fire to play his most popular song, ‘Fire’. The entire Regent was dancing to this tune and it was every bit as great as imagined. The band played two more songs after that one, and bid goodbye amidst deafening cheers.
An Arthur Brown show in 2017 is nothing short of a re-enactment of rock history, and anyone and everyone who has enjoyed any form of heavy music for any length of time during the past 50 years is absolutely guaranteed to be mesmerized and transcended beyond the realms of earth upon experiencing this show. It is godly in itself for this man to be performing at the peak of his powers at his age, and cities getting graced by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on this tour should consider themselves the fortunate ones, as his is a show worth traveling very far for.
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Remaining Tour Dates:
02/16/2017 – Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino *
02/17/2017 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s +
02/18/2017 – Portland, OR @ Star Theater %
02/21/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
02/23/2017 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
02/24/2017 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda #
02/25/2017 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda +$
* = w/ White Hills
+ = w/ Acid King
% = w/ Danava
# = w/ Pallbearer
$ = w/ Jex Thoth