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In concert: Roky Erickson at Black Cat

By David Malitz

roky ericksonRoky Erickson didn't get too psychedelic on Friday night. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson)

If you went to the Black Cat on Friday knowing nothing of Roky Erickson's troubled past of mental illness, you probably could have figured it out easily enough. The grizzled 63-year-old minor rock icon looked alternately puzzled, pleased and possessed as he stood stage center before a supportive crowd. He didn't address the audience, save for one incoherent mumble, only occasionally played the guitar that had to be draped over his neck for him and regularly looked to his backing band for reassurance in the middle of songs.

And if you went to the show not knowing that, as a teenage Texan, Erickson basically invented psychedelic rock with his band, the 13th Floor Elevators, Friday's show didn't provide many hints. The set was largely culled from Erickson's '80s material, a more bruising and generic brand of hard rock, filled with science fiction themes. "Stand for the Fire Demon," "Night of the Vampire" and "Don't Shake Me Lucifer" were straight-ahead boogie rock ragers that showcased Erickson's mighty howl, as gruff and gritty as ever.

roky erickson

Also mostly absent from the set was material from "True Love Cast Out All Evil," Erickson's first album of new material in 15 years. Texas folk-rock dramatists Okkervil River were an odd but ultimately successful backing band on the album, providing well-manicured arrangements that made for a dignified and unlikely return to the spotlight. On this tour, even backed by a standard three-piece guitar/bass/drums setup, the couple of new songs -- "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" and "John Lawman" -- stood out. The former provided the most moving moment of the night, with Erickson repeating the title almost as if a mantra. Compared to the surreal imagery contained in most songs, it was particularly humanizing.

After a wobbly but crowd-pleasing encore of "You're Gonna Miss Me," the Elevators' biggest hit and sort of the garage rock equivalent of "Freebird," Erickson huddled with his guitarist as he did regularly through the night. The meeting ended with Erickson walking offstage, not saying goodbye. It was a strange and anticlimactic end to a strange and anticlimactic show, but the strangest part was that it happened in the first place.

roky erickson

roky erickson

roky erickson

roky erickson

By David Malitz  | November 8, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Roky Erickson  
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"John Lawman" is not a new song. It was on Roky's 1986 album, "Gremlins Have Pictures."

Posted by: rocketracer37 | November 10, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

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