Pentamiligrams: Pentagram deliver the wrong dosage of rock

Pub date March 25, 2010

Between the pre-salers and the at-the-door buyers, Pentagram fans shelled out around $20 each for the DNA Lounge show Wed/24. Though the complications of the band’s discography could fill the pages of a sizable book, suffice to say that they are not promoting a new album — the concert-goers in attendance were universally excited for a healthy portion of Pentagram classics (especially those diehards who saw July 2009’s command performance, also at the DNA).

The set that followed was a sham. It started auspiciously with “Forever My Queen” and “Review Your Choices” — two of the favorites that everyone expected. Then singer Bobby Liebling, 56-year-old butt poured into turquoise skinny jeans, reached for his harmonica.

What followed could hardly be called a “song,” and would be more appropriately and unfortunately be called a “jam.” It was the most ham-handed attempt at concert filler I’ve ever witnessed. Despite a half-hearted attempt to evoke ZZ Top’s “La Grange” somewhere around the middle of its bloated, 20-minute run time, it was largely an exercise in poorly-rehearsed, poorly-performed 12-bar-blues, packed start-to-finish with Liebling’s unsettling attempts at being “sexy” onstage (read: lots of cunnilingus-style tongue waggling and Robert Plant crotch diddling). After two more songs (the well-received “Sign of the Wolf” and “20 Buck Spin”), Pentagram bugged the fuck out, without playing an encore.

Turns out the band’s long-time lead guitarist, Russ Strahan, quit under mysterious circumstances right before the current tour was about to start. According to a statement posted on his MySpace page, Strahan felt he had to walk away “Due to communication breakdowns and inner band issues,” refusing to “compromise [his] values and love of playing music.” He cryptically concluded: “True fans of Pentagram … will understand the ongoing internal turmoil that has haunted this band from its inception & I refuse to air dirty laundry to the public.”

As tempting as it is to speculate, the exact nature of the stains on the band’s “dirty laundry” is likely to remain unknown. It is telling, nevertheless, that Liebling is the sole constant in a band that lists no fewer than 23 “former members” on Wikipedia. The singer is notoriously difficult to get along with, though, to his credit, he has recently kicked a long-running and devastating drug habit, thanks in large part to his relationship with 23-year-old wife Hallie, a fresh-faced, fashion-forward blonde who ironically blogs and twitters under the name “Halcoholic.”

In order to continue with their current tour, the band recruited axeman Johnny Wretched (formerly of under-appreciated Mid-Atlantic doomsters Unorthodox) to fill in for Strahan. Though a competent guitarist, he was apparently unable to learn a sufficient amount of Pentagram material in the short time frame available, leading to the debacle that transpired onstage at the DNA Lounge last night. It would certainly behoove the band to be more forthright (one pre-set apology aside) with their short-changed fans in the future. More importantly, those intending to attend one of the shows later in the tour should “Be Forewarned.”

For further reading, check out this fascinating interview with Liebling on metal blog The Obelisk.