The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Brooklyn Steel – September 5, 2017
Anton Newcombe will go down fighting the good fight. Since 1991 he has maintained a laughably prolific pace of releasing music with his band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, that’s mined the depths of early-’60s British rock and Haight Ashbury psychedelia. A true believer and uncompromising musical mastermind, Newcombe has remained one of underground music’s biggest cult artists. But all of his acclaim and adoration from fans has been hard won over years of touring the globe and tinkering in the lab. Along the way, he’s built up the reputation of being one of rock’s most eccentric yet volatile personalities. Ondi Timoner’s classic documentary Dig! shows Newcombe both at his most erratic and brilliant. With the release of this year’s Don’t Get Lost, the Brian Jonestown Massacre brought their tour to Brooklyn Steel last night and were welcomed by a packed house of eager fans waiting to see which side of Newcombe they would get. And for those who were lucky enough to purchase tickets, he did not disappoint.
The experimental group Chui Wan, from Beijing, opened the show, easing the crowd into the night with a loose yet moving set of mind-bending textures and cascading melodies. Once they had finished, the stage was quickly turned around for the headliners. Dressed in matching white linen with a long flowing scarf draped around his neck, Newcombe stepped onstage backed by the six-piece band that makes up the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Including Newcombe, there were three guitarists, a bassist, keyboardist, drummer and longtime tambourine player and mascot Joel Gion, whose lackadaisical presence at the center of the stage drew impassioned “Joel, Joel, Joel” chants from the crowd.
For more than two hours, the Brian Jonestown Massacre delivered what they do best. Each song blasted out of the gate with the force of a desert hallucination as the band treated fans to selections from across their massive 17-album catalog. Newcombe was in great spirits throughout, and he took to the microphone for multiple hilarious tangents. “Do you think that Korean guy Lil’ Kim liked the Beatles?” he asked at one point. And then: “Do you think he watched Yellow Submarine as a kid? How could he and the act like this? I don’t get it.” The group mixed in some newer material from over the past decade alongside such fan favorites as “Anemone” and “Servo,” from their classic run in the ’90s. And by the time the Brian Jonestown Massacre put down their vintage teardrop guitars and that last rattle of the tambourine was heard, everyone who had packed into Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday night knew that they had been treated to one of rock and roll’s last great torchbearers. —Pat King |@MrPatKing