I WAS THERE . . . Arc Angels @ Irving Plaza, 5.8.09

All Photos by Mitch Levitin

Yes, there were cheers and even some tears from loyal fans throughout the years, bikers with serious ink “throwing metal,” and a curious younger crowd consisting of people like myself who was about seven-years-old when the Arc Angels released their first and only album in 1992.

The story of the band from inception to their reunion reads like an Oscar-worthy Rock N’ Roll biopic. Formed in the aftermath of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s (SRV) tragic death, the Arc Angels from Austin, Texas combined the rhythm section of SRV’s backing band Double Trouble and the two fiery and talented guitarists/singers Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton. For all their promise as the next wave of Blues/Rock gods filling in the vacuum left by SRV, it seems they took Neil Young’s lyrics “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” literally, and the band went their separate ways after only two years together due to drug abuse and clashing egos.

Over a decade and a half later, the Arc Angels are together again and rockin’ the stage at Irving Plaza, winning back old fans and making new ones in the process. The rhythm section held down the rock-heavy tunes, and drummer Chris Layton hit the snare so hard I thought he was going to wake Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham from the dead. Charlie Sexton, who had spent his time away from the band playing in Bob Dylan’s backing band, was fantastic in his vocals and guitar playing with one of my favorite solos of the night in all its delay-pedal, atmospheric glory from the closer “Too Many Ways To Fall”.

However, it was the cool, disinterested Doyle Bramhall II who stole the show as he ripped dirty blues solos more in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughn and his mentor Albert King than Eric Clapton, who Bramhall has played with in recent years. All in all, the show felt less like the 1990s and more like a good, old-fashioned blues-tinged, Southern rock show that’s timeless and goes down well with a beer.

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