Following a recent tour with Amplifier and two upcoming dates supporting the returning L7, Black Moth headline The Underworld with an intriguing support cast. Due to transport diversions I miss the fascinatingly titled Free Nelson Mandoom Jazz and only catch the end of Swedish retro rockers Spiders‘ set. Fronted by the animated Ann-Sofia Hoyles the band seemed on form and the crowd response was good.
Portland, Oregon’s Danava definitely make an impression as they hit the stage and take you immediately back to the future of 1971. A visual combination of early Black Sabbath and Spinal Tap’s long haired, heavy mustachioed look, you wonder if this is some kind of cartoonish parody.
However, what emerges from the shock and awe of their appearance is not far short of utter breathtaking musicianship. The frenzied, fast-paced finger guitar picking and bass playing is pretty incredible and quickly extinguishes any doubts of buffoonery. Of course, it pays a heavy debt to Black Sabbath and the vocals border on imitating Ozzy Ozbourne, but when they do explore into prog rock territory the rewards are interesting, captivating and never less than jaw-dropping.
Onto the headliners, and Black Moth open with the crushing power chords of ‘The Undead King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’. What is immediately striking is the immense tightness of their sound and the sheer power coming from the stage is exhilarating. They explode into the incredibly catchy ‘Tumbleweave’ and the powerfulness continues with the punchy ‘White Lies’. The slow and menacing ‘Trees of Woe’ maintains the potency of an immense opening display of great songs. What strikes me is the oozing of confidence they possess and the stage presence that is now at their disposal.
The recent video for the grunge-inspired ‘Looner’ is no deception of this growing self-confidence. The said song is electric in its delivery and the dispensing to the crowd of ‘Looner’ emblazened black balloons produces an enjoyable and spontaneous flurry of foot stomping balloon bursting by both band and crowd, with beaming smiles all around as the song ends with a dispersal of feedback. Harriet Bevan has grown as a vocalist and performer; radiant, full of charisma – even flirtatious – and her natural rapport with the audience looks effortless.
In fact, with only two albums to their name they produce an hour-long set that is lean and filler-free. ‘Set Yourself Alight’ attacks and swaggers with the cocksureness of a band in full flight. They end with ‘Honey Lung’ and leave the stage with the finest performance I’ve witnessed yet by this rather fine, funky, quirky and distinctively expanding gem of a band.
This gig proved that not only have they grown in stature but are currently cooking as a unit and so deserve a wider audience, and an open-minded investigation by those who are unfamiliar with them. If you are going to see L7 then stick your neck out (i.e. leave the boozer earlier) and give Black Moth a listen.