Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at le Poisson Rouge

Arthur Brown
Arthur Brown was born in 1942 as the family home was being bombed by the Germans in a World War II air raid. He and his family were reported among the dead by the local newspaper in Whitby, a seaside town in northern England that happened to be Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula. Perhaps this path explains why, after studying law and philosophy at university, Brown turned into hard rock's first shock rocker. He formed his first band, Blues & Brown, while at university, then led bands in London and developed his theatrical skills and led the Arthur Brown Set in Paris, France. Returning to London in 1966-67, Brown was briefly a member of a soul/ska group called the Ramong Sound before the band found Top 40 success as the Foundations. In 1967, Brown formed the hard rocking Crazy World of Arthur Brown, in which he earned a reputation for outrageous theatrics, including elaborate face make-up and the use of a flaming metal helmet. The band had one million-selling single, "Fire," but split in 1969. Brown alleged denied an opportunity to be the vocalist for Jimi Hendrix, then played in several bands including Kingdom Come in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he worked as a carpenter, painter and counselor while living in Austin, Texas. He never again achieved commercial success in music. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's sixth and most recent album, 2013's Zim Zam Zim,  was made possible through a pledge campaign.

Arthur Brown was dubbed the God of Hellfire from the intro line of his one-hit wonder, "Fire," but he performed at le Poisson Rouge tonight without his signature flaming helmet. Brown wore colorful face paint and changed stage wardrobe several times, and a female dancer joined him on stage a few times, but overall his performance was about music, not staging. Brown' soulful vocals ranged from bluesy baritone to blistering banshee, and the band jammed tightly; ironically, the arrangements did not seem as tight during an updated version of "Fire." Much like on his albums, many of the less-impactful songs seemed like filler. Nevertheless, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's concert was enjoyable, but somewhat like musical theater lost in time. Brown indisputably owns a piece of real estate in early rock history that inspired the likes of Alice Cooper, Kiss, King Diamond and many other shock rockers, and the "fire" will not burn out for Brown as long as the embers flicker.

Visit the Crazy World of Arthur Brown at www.arthur-brown.com.

Setlist:

Brains (Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come song) (prerecorded intro)
  1. Zim Zam Zim
  2. Prelude / Nightmare
  3. Want to Love
  4. The Unknown
  5. Gypsy Escape (Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come cover) (>) I Put a Spell on You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins cover)
  6. Rest Cure (>) Kites (Simon Dupree & The Big Sound cover)
  7. Sunrise (Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come cover)
  8. The Tell-Tale Heart (The Alan Parsons Project cover)
  9. Touched by All
  10. Devil's Grip
  11. Muscle of Love
  12. Fanfare / Fire Poem (>) Fire
  13. Junkyard King
  14. Jungle Fever