The packed audience was buzzing with anticipation of the memorable night of Texas Rock and Blues they were sure to experience. It had a Christmas morning feel about it, like kids ready to sprint into the living room after their parents finally got out of bed. The gift of music they received this night was more meaningful than the toys they got as children, too.
The beautiful Echo Lounge and Music Hall was a great choice of venue for the Dallas leg of the mini-reunion of the legendary Arc Angels, who only gifted music lovers with one eponymous album in 1992. They've played together sparingly since then, but the tightness and cohesion of the band sounded like they had toured together every year since. Even the music sounded as fresh today as it did when they exploded onto the Texas music scene 30 years ago.
The Texas Gentlemen opened the evening with their easy beat music that meshed with meaty lyrics and a laid back style of play. The fans enjoyed the 40-minute set and thoroughly enjoyed each of the eight songs they played.
With little fanfare, the Arc Angels came to the stage and it turned into a singalong at the first notes of "Paradise Cafe," the first of the 16-song set. Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton traded lines throughout the song, as they did on many songs during the high-energy evening. They looked great, both healthy and energetic, and determined to make the night memorable for the dedicated fans. Charlie, as always, still had a jawline that could cut diamonds and the other band members looked to be flourishing in life, both in and away from music.
The sparkle in their eyes and knowing looks on their faces made them remember why they got together to form the Arc Angels. Charlie, the child prodigy guitarist, set the soft tempo on "Carry Me On," and he and the others seemed to appreciate that only true fans were present and gave them one more reason to leave everything they had on the stage when the show was over.
Short, medium length or long jams were built into every song and gave the two guitarists extraordinaire a chance to shine as the notes and chords flowed out of their souls and showed much more of their inner personalities. Many of the lyrics were personal, making the music the star of the show and not theatrics or unjustified hyperbole.
All of band engaged well with the fans and they enjoyed watching the crowd bop their heads or do the turkey neck strut for the harder-beat rock and roll tunes. The audience members swayed back and forth and moved to the music as they were kept in perfect time by the rhythm section. Until Tommy Shannon's retirement, the back-line was Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble consisting of Tommy and the always master drummer Chris Layton, a steadying influence of every band he's been associated with and such a valuable member of blues-rock bands. Now on the kit for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, his helpful hand is instrumental in making KWS a world-renowned band. Touring bassist Eric Holden did a fine job and seemed to blend in and mesh well with the long-time members of the band.
The loud crowd went to a roar at the first notes of "Sent By An Angel," one of the band's signature songs. Still getting airplay, especially on Texas radio, is also sounds as fresh as it did in the early days. It could easily be re-released today and be just as big, if not bigger. "Sweet Nadine" was another song that painted a picture for the listener. Was there actually a Nadine? If they told that much about Nadine, what did they not tell?
Another signature song, "Shape I'm In," continued the upbeat boogie with the addition of a keyboard, and every eclectic audience member turned into a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer and belted out the lyrics at the top of their collective lungs. During the mini-jam, people turned to each other and confided, "That's about me. They wrote that about me."
All too soon, the show had to end. Very few people left before the encore and with good reason the encore was fantastic. It started with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel," another classic which has stood the test of time. With DB II on vocals and left-handed lead guitar, it transported the listener back to another time and place of peace, love and music. Ending the exquisite night was the great finale rock song, "Too Many Ways To Fall." In addition to being a good song, the ending jam was chock full of emotion with many twists and turns. The melody, chord changes and tone also allowed one to instantly be wherever you wanted to be or switch accordingly. It truly set the stage to let you be the center of the song.
All the members of the Arc Angels are tremendous musicians and have played with other great artists and bands. Bramhall, son of the famous Doyle Sr., has played with Jimmy Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Cow, and list does on and on. Sexton, a child prodigy, was playing with Bob Dylan at 16 and with all the Texas greats as a teenager. Whipper Slayton was half of Double Trouble, playing with SRV, Storyville and now keeps the beat for KWS Band. It is literally a Who's Who in Texas and beyond.
Special thanks to Laura King and all the staff at the Echo Lounge. It's a beautiful, intimate venue and will host many concerts and other events in the future.