Chaos in Tejas Live (First Night): The Bats

Seminal Kiwis back in the U.S.A.

The Bats’ Robert Scott outside at Red 7, 5.30.13
The Bats’ Robert Scott outside at Red 7, 5.30.13 (by Shelley Hiam)

Bats leader Paul Kean had to chuckle. “There seem to be less tattoos in this room than we’ve seen about the place,” remarked the bassist about halfway through the band’s hour-plus set outside at Red 7, the New Zealanders’ first showcase atop American soil in years.

Indeed, the number of metal T-shirts seemed incongruous outside. Clearly some patrons wandered over from the inside room, where death metal destroyers Benediction loudly held court.

Despite a few stumbles, which likely derived from the group’s decision to play with entirely new instruments, the Bats delivered a 17-song master class in Way Down Under jangle pop. Opening not with a blast but rather a whisper, singer and principal songwriter Robert Scott easing the quartet into the mid-tempo “Supernova” and “Afternoon in Bed,” alternating thereafter betwixt beloved classics and tunes from its latest, Free All the Monsters.

The latter’s run of “It’s Not the Same,” “In the Subway,” “Fingers of Dawn,” and “Simpletons” sang strong, but the mid-sized crowd responded most warmly to the older material. The ringing “Boogey Man,” from 1991 masterpiece Fear of God, drew sparkling tones from Scott’s Jazzmaster guitar, while “Shoeshine” made the case for second guitarist Kaye Woodward taking lead more often.

Later, the textbook jangle of “Horizon” recalled Scott’s work with seminal NZ band, and 2012 Chaos in Tejas alumnus, the Clean. And “Trouble in This Town” sounded like the Beatles covering the Velvet Underground. The audience had dwindled by the encore, but diehards who stuck around enjoyed the sprightly “Block of Wood,” from the combo’s 1987 debut, Daddy’s Highway.

Though sometimes accused of spinning the same record until the grooves have worn away, the Bats demonstrated an authority of their chosen discipline that dismissed such carping with the clang of an open chord.

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The Bats, Chaos in Tejas, Paul Kean, Robert Scott, Kaye Woodward, the Clean, Benediction

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