The influence of British singer Arthur Brown cannot be understated. His crazy on-stage antics, elaborate facepaint, and illustrious sounds will go down in the the history of psychedelic and heavy music. With his band, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, he is touring the states for the first time in almost fifty years. I saw him at Pyscho Las Vegas last year, but after his amazing set, I knew I had to see the madness again. I traveled up to New York City to see him at the Le Poisson Rouge, a classy underground venue in Lower Manhattan.
Opening for The Crazy World was Electric Citizen, who I’ve seen a handful of times. Though I was already very familiar with their throwback ’70s hard rock, I still enjoyed myself. They played a mix from both of their albums, starting with my favorite track of theirs, “Social Phobia”. This track shows off the heavy yet elegant energy the group has. Vocalist Laura Dolan particularity shined on the bouncy “Two Hearted Woman,” guiding the track with ease. Drummer Nathan Wagner was like Animal from The Muppets on his kit, bringing a certain fun intensity. Steve Ramsey gave the music an extra punch with his bass thumping, and guitarist Ross Dolan was Iommic in his stage presence, letting the music speak for itself. At a few points during their set, I closed my eyes and just got lost in their music. I live for moments like that at shows.
After some down time, Arthur Brown and his band entered the stage with an abstract painting with his face as the canvas, starting with a newer number, “Zim Zam Zim”. This man puts on a show. His music has quite a range, with psych rock, shock rock, jazz, spoken word, and other elements thrown in to made one beautiful hodgepodge. The keys in particular are a marvel to behold, I love the interplay they had with the other instruments. The soundscape was as surreal as it was catchy, and even dance-able at times. The man himself sounds great even at age 75 with his strong baritone voice. The constant costume changes he interjected were also entertaining. The continuity between all of the tracks was solid, yet uncanny. Half of these tracks were decades old, half were very recent, but despite their variety they felt very naturally interwoven.
Some highlights include “Gypsy Escape,” a number from Arthur’s other band, Kindom Come which I did not know about before. They only played a section of it, but damn it was a pretty heavy and groovy track. Mr. Brown’s rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins‘ “I Put a Spell on You” was a nice tribute and has always felt appropriate for his Crazy World. His cover of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound‘s “Kites” is a wonderful seductive jazz number that has become one of my favorites of his. A dancer came on stage for that one, elegantly trading moves with Arthur. Yet another cover he performed was an Alan Parsons Project track he originally guested on, “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The build up, power, and feel-good nature on this track was undeniable. His big hit “Fire” was of course the big crowd pleaser, and man did it have lasting power. He went into the crowd during the song and stopped right in front of me and let the crowd sing a bit. That was amazing and surreal. I would like to think that he recognized me from when I met him at Psycho Fest, but that could be wishful thinking. One of his last songs was “Junkyard King,” a newer track of his that contains an undeniable bassy groove.
Needless to say, I’m more than glad I went to this show. Seeing this man preform this well at his age is astounding. That alone gives me so much respect for him. Not only that, but he’s such a British gentleman too and an artist in the truest sense. I hope he continues to perform for another fifty years at least.