Carter Arrington, Arthur Brown, Bruce Hughes, and Dane Farnsworth of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown perform onstage at Le Poisson Rouge during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Empire Garage on March 14, 2019 in Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Danny Matson/Getty Images for SXSW

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (Empire Garage, March 14th)
No, that is not a typo. Fifty-one years after he declared himself the God of Hellfire on his freak hit “Fire” (Track Records, 1968), Brown — who turns 77 in June — is an enduring trip of spirited, theatrical eccentricity. Walking on stage to a tape of menacing a cappella chorale (“We need your brain/For further examination”), the leader and his Crazy World were a determined explosion of psychedelic-carnival chic: face paint, rainbow-spectrum threads and druid-party headgear including, at one point, Brown’s German army helmet topped with antler-like vegetation. But Brown — actually back home as the Englishman spent 17 years in the late Seventies and Eighties living in Austin, painting houses — was in remarkably strong vocal form too, extolling the powers of gypsy voodoo in a range that went from meaty, threatening baritone to controlled-hysteria falsetto, accenting the extremes with a surprisingly limber, mantis-like dancing. “Fire” was the inevitable conclusion, Brown giving good heat with authentic support from his band. But the highlight was Brown’s reprise of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You,” covered to inflammatory effect on the Crazy World’s debut LP and sounding not a day over 1968.


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