The calendar said Halloween was over, but at the Ariel Pink concert at Brighton Music Hall on Nov. 2, no one would have guessed that the season of wild and spooky shenanigans had come to an end.
The show opened with a “set” from Nina Tarr that didn’t actually involve any music, only spoken-word comedy. Nevertheless, the crowd was sufficiently pumped up for what was to come. The second opener, Gary War, was a former member of Ariel Pink’s backing band, Haunted Graffiti, and this was evident in his music. The fast-paced songs and dark vocals suggested a pseudo-Pink, but his extensive use of phasers and fuzzy guitar effects made for a psychedelic sound all his own. War was on stage alone and at times he appeared to have trouble controlling all his instruments at once, but it was impressive how full of a sound he could make on his own.
Ariel Pink’s shows have always been hit-or-miss. The Los Angeles-based musician is somewhat of a diva: at a Boston show in 2013, he refused to play an encore despite having one listed on the setlist, instead coming back out and mumbling “F**k you guys, we aren’t doing an encore.” Last month in San Francisco his rowdy onstage antics with his girlfriend, musician Charlotte Ercoli, drew criticism from some fans who thought he was mistreating her. (This was later debunked by Ercoli, who posted on Twitter that everything was consensual and they were just having fun.) However, the night’s show was a clear hit. He was in the midst of a tour for his recent album, September’s Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, and indeed the centerpiece of his stage setup was a shrine to the late ‘60s singer-songwriter. Pink sported an orange jack-o-lantern tank top and some of his backing band members were in costume, indicating they weren’t quite done with Halloween.
The vast majority of Pink’s set was composed of songs from the new album. The band opened with “Another Weekend,” already stepping off the stage and interacting with the crowd. They then launched into “Nighttime Is Great!,” a Halloween-y Haunted Graffiti rarity. Pink expertly worked the crowd, taking a fan’s giant sombrero and putting it on after a performance of 2015 album Pom Pom’s “White Freckles.” After playing the new single “I Wanna Be Young,” he briefly complained to the venue’s sound engineers about too much feedback on stage, and restarted “In A Tomb All Your Own” (off of his 2007 album Scared Famous) after a faulty beginning, but that was the extent of his diva-like behavior.
Other highlights of his set included “Ghosts,” a high-energy shriek-fest from his earlier days, and “Baby,” a mellow Donnie and Joe Emerson cover from his 2013 album Mature Themes. He closed the main part of his set with back-to-back songs from his most successful album with Haunted Graffiti, 2010’s Before Today. First was “Menopause Man,” an enjoyable if lyrically bizarre track, and next was danceable hit “Round and Round,” which, naturally, ended in Pink crowd-surfing. An encore seemed imminent, and thankfully he did not repeat the episode from 2013: the band came back on stage to play four more songs, beginning with Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’s “Bubblegum Dreams,” a tune that’s about as LA as it gets. He then played two short, high-energy pieces, “Kinski Assassin” and “Bright Lit Blue Skies,” from Mature Themes and Before Today respectively, before closing with “Do Yourself A Favor.” The latter was an odd choice for a closer because it lacked the vitality of some of his earlier tunes, but the crowd was satisfied nonetheless.
Overall, the show was wild from start to finish. Ariel Pink’s onstage charisma combined with the energetic crowd made for a very interesting and exciting concert. Who said Halloween ends with November, anyway?