Sensory Overload: Angela Perley and Co. still howlin' at Natalie's, though a bit more gently

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Near the close of Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons’ sold-out performance at Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza on a recent Sunday, the singer eased into a solo version of “Down and Drunk,” a depressive tune where the narrator compares him or herself with “a Kansas tornado, destroying everything I see” and struggles to find the joy in life.

“Beauty doesn’t mean anything to me,” Perley crooned, stretching out atop nothing more than lazily strummed electric guitar.

The down-and-out cut stood in stark contrast to a pair of lush new tunes, which, adorned with heart palpitating titles like “Your Love” and “Dangerous Love,” found the bandmates staking out far more hopeful territory. It’s fitting, too, considering the Howlin’ Moons’ banner year, which saw the musicians crisscrossing the country in support of Hey Kid, from 2013, and even playing a Record Store Day gig where the Foo Fighters served as the surprise opening act (true, Dave Grohl and Co. performed a few hours prior to the band, but, still, it counts!).

Exhaustive gigging — Howlin’ Moons logged in excess of 120 shows last year — has sharpened and tightened the band’s sound, though it still retained a bit of roadhouse swagger on “Roll On Over,” which revved like a muscle car engine, and “Blue Eyed Lola,” which briefly conjured images of a loping, backwoods hootenanny. On “Athens,” Perley sang of boarding a train as the quartet launched into an extended jam that was nearly as slow to come to a stop as one of the rumbling metal behemoths.

Elsewhere, however, songs tended to be more manicured. Such was the case on “Howlin’ at the Moon,” which was more sedated than its feral-animal title, building around quicksilver riffs courtesy of guitarist Chris Connor, and “Dangerous Love,” a gorgeous new song that held at a low boil. “Your Love” gave off a similar heat, nearly matching the output of the venue’s namesake coal-fired pizza oven. Even “Hurricane,” which featured stage lights that crackled like heat lightning, sounded somewhat mellower than its recorded version — less sneering and more simmering — and it’ll be interesting if that comparatively low-key, sweltering approach will bleed into the band’s next full-length, which the musicians are currently in the midst of recording.

Andy Downing photo