By Paul T. Mueller –
For a band that made only one studio album – 30 years ago – Arc Angels has quite a devoted fan base. That loyalty was clear at Houston’s Heights Theater on November 16, when the band drew an enthusiastic near-capacity crowd for its third Houston show of 2022.
Arc Angels – named for the Austin Rehearsal Center, or ARC, where the band came together – originally included drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon (aka Double Trouble, the rhythm section that backed Stevie Ray Vaughan) plus singer-songwriter/guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton. For the current tour at least, Eric Holden is handling the bass duties.
In a high-volume set of bluesy rock that lasted an hour and 45 minutes, the band ripped through most of its self-titled album’s 12 tracks, starting with the bad-behavior tale “Paradise Café.” Most of the songs found Bramhall (son of Vaughan’s late running buddy Doyle Bramhall) and Sexton (who spent years in Bob Dylan’s band, among others) trading licks and solos, while Layton and Holden supported them with a steady and seemingly effortless groove.
About midway through the show, Sexton led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Layton (67, for those keeping score). A bit later, the band launched into Charley Patton’s “Oh Death,” prefaced by Sexton’s joking apology to Layton for playing such a song so soon after the birthday wishes.
The main set wrapped up with three of the stronger songs from the Arc Angels album – “Spanish Moon,” “Shape I’m In” and “Living in a Dream.” After a short break, the band returned for a one-song encore, the powerful “Too Many Ways to Fall.”
Austin-based quartet Madam Radar opened the show with an energetic 40-minute set. The band’s sound, and appearance, featured something of an early ‘70s hippie vibe, fueled by the rock-star posturing of guitarist/singer Kelly Green and the cool elegance of bassist Violet Lea. They closed, fittingly, with a faithful rendition of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.”