Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Live Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
San Francisco, CA

In four years a lot can change: Four years ago I lived in San Diego. That evil fuckhead George W. Bush was our President, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were touring in support of their album Baby 81 with original drummer Nick Jago.

Four years later I live in the Bay Area. Those dumb fucks in Washington are doing their best to do nothing about our ailing country, and BRMC are touring in support of their excellent new album Beat the Devil's Tattoo with new drummer Leah Shapiro.

Some things stay the same: I'm still trying to kill my hearing by going to all these concerts, and BRMC still kicks major ass live. Returning to their hometown Tuesday night, the band strutted on stage, plugged in and attacked the crowd with the blues bomb of new song "War Machine". Bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been slashed away at his bass guitar as if trying to wrestle state secrets from it while guitarist/vocalist Peter Hayes sprayed waves of feedback over the crowd.

The show had indeed begun.

With Beat the Devil's Tattoo released the same day as the show, BRMC didn't shy away from playing a majority of the cuts off the new album. Standouts included the title cut (complete with some great vocals harmonies from the band), rockers "Conscience Killer" and "Mama Taught Me Better", the Brit Pop of "Bad Blood" and the psychedelic-slide menace of "River Styx".

With over five album worth of material to choose from, BRMC did a solid job of touching all corners of their musical career: the rootsier HOWL cuts like "Shuffle Your Feet" and "Ain't No Easy Way" were show highlights, and the band went back to their first album for a healthy dose of classics like "Spread Your Love", "Rifles"and "Punk Song".

All these years slugging it out on the road has chiseled the band into a tight live unit. The band jammed out several tunes, including "Six Barrel Shotgun" to the point where the original song was almost forgotten. New drummer Leah Shapiro more than held her own behind the kit, hitting harder on hypnotic tracks like "Red Eyes and Tears" and "666 Conducer" and adding backing vocal harmonies where appropriate on the acoustic/piano songs.

As members of the garage rock class of 2000, BRMC might not have hit the commercial paydirt like classmates The Strokes, The White Stripes and now Kings of Leon have in recent years, but the band has maintained its vision and musical integrity while carving out a devoted fanbase. With a solid new album out and a world tour just beginning perhaps it's BRMC's time to shine.

Athens, GA band The Whigs opened the show. I only caught the last 4 songs, but they were enjoyable and reminded me of Crazy Horse if Crazy Horse were a trio of 28 year olds trying to make their amps explode.


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