Sanctuary is one of the prime hard rock and alternative metal havens in the Detroit metro area. On this particular evening, the near-capacity venue was graced by the presence of the legendary proto-hard rock quartet Pentagram. Lead vocalist and prime songwriter Bobby Liebling has been at the helm of this unit since 1969 and has slain a myriad of personal and professional demons along the way. Now, as the band approaches 50 years in the business, Liebling and company continue to prove they are as vital and contemporary as ever.
The wild-eyed and theatrical Liebling, along with guitarist Matt Goldsborough, bassist Greg Turley and drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell dove into the first of many fan favorites with the driving “Star Lady.” That was followed by another dark set standard called “The Ghoul.” Liebling, often referred to as the “father of doom metal,” recently reflected on what personally keeps the music fresh and inventive for him. “I think the music stays fresh because we haven’t played a lot of the cities on this current tour,” explained the veteran vocalist. “You’ve gotta remember we’ve turned over three different generations already. Once you’re in one place, the next time you come back to that place or someplace else, the people haven’t heard you before. So, the music stays fresh for the crowd. The fans keep things fresh with their hospitality and spontaneity. There are people from their 20s to 60s who come and see us. And a lot of our audience is getting younger and younger, so I guess it’s turning another generation.”
As the show progressed the crowd became more animated moving in time to the band’s original and emotionally rich anthems like the emblematic “Sign of the Wolf,” the thematically complex “Relentless” and the thoughtful “Review Your Choices.” Liebling has obviously seen a lot of changes in the music scene over nearly 50 years. And the band has experienced a number of personnel changes as well. “We’ve stuck to our same kind of thing over the years,” shared Liebling in regards to their classic hard rock sound. “On and off there have been lulls where I’ve gone under and come back out. But I’ve always wanted to keep that traditional kick-ass sound. People call me doom metal but I don’t feed into that. I don’t like speed metal, thrash metal or black metal either. We just play heavy hard rock. And we’re very melodic as well. That’s very important.”
The audience was upbeat and consistent in response to the phenomenal energy the band was laying down. The pacing was effortless and well balanced, from pervasive up-tempo rockers to slow bluesy tunes like “Downhill Slope.” At one point a circular mosh pit briefly formed. “Most of the stuff we play was written a long time ago,” observes Liebling. “It still holds up so we do it. Writing is spontaneous for me. It’s based on personal experience, with a bit of a punkish attitude. A little rough and tumble. It’s not happy music as such. It’s downer sounding music, but very uplifting to those that like that kind of thing.”
The band wrapped their 90-minute show with one of their signature fan favorites “Forever My Queen.” It was a real burner and seemed to work the crowd into a fever pitch. Liebling’s love ode, of sorts, kept everyone on their feet and a spirit of camaraderie formed throughout the crowd. “The standard list we do now has been compulsory to do live because of the generational thing, and because many people have not heard the band before,” concluded Liebling. “It’s kind of like Pentagram’s greatest hits from the underground or something. We’ll probably be doing that through next year and then record a live on location album. We plan to be traveling around the world a whole lot in 2020.”