Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Echoplex, 3/12/10
Cinderella once sang, "Don't know what you got till it's gone," and while I think we were all more or less aware of what we had in Cinderella, they still sang true. During my dizzy time in the bunker (which rotated between my apartment and my girlfriend's), I was so preoccupied with my health and how disorienting the vertigo was that it never even occurred to me that I hadn't been to a concert since the second week of December. For me, that's quite a while. Luckily, a remedy was on the horizon: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
To put it simply, concertsaremyfavoritethingeverohmygodyay! Or, to quote Jeff Tweedy: "A rock concert is the closest thing to what I think people expect church to be like." Now, I'm not saying that my problems had anything to do with concert withdrawal, but I can't really prove they didn't, either. As it turned out, my first trip back to my 'church' was a memorable one. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (or BRMC for those who don't feel like typing that whole thing multiple times) is one of my sneaky favorites. By sneaky I mean that I never think to mention them in the upper echelon, yet I own and listen to all of their albums frequently, and I've seen them six times. That's more than most bands I would list before them--maybe it's time to shuffle things around. And they are always compelling live, striking a nice balance between their mellower songs from Howl and their more typical fuzzy, sexy Jesus and Mary Chain-esque rock.
On this night they were coming off the release of their latest, Beat the Devil's Tattoo, so naturally they leaned fairly hard on those songs, starting things off with the swampy "War Machine" and the driving, vaguely industrial "Mama Taught Me Better," an excellent one-two combo of a mission statement for the evening. Co-lead singers Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes trade off songs, so after two straight from Robert it was time for Pete to step forward, tearing through the fan favorite "Love Burns" and then donning his harmonica holder to dust off B.R.M.C. B-side "Screaming Gun."
This is the first album and tour with new drummer Leah Shapiro, and she sounded great on the shoegaze of "Bad Blood" and bluesy stomp of "Conscience Killer," both new, but she was just as strong on the older tracks. BRMC have never had particularly complicated drumming, but it's always provided the perfect foundation and groove to Been and Hayes' songs. As for the new material, it signals a bit of a return to their early sound, while still carrying over bits of the acoustic and sometimes folky feel of Howl. "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" is the most overtly similar to Howl, with its dual acoustic guitars and group vocals, and the live rendition did it justice and then some. About halfway through the two-hour set, Hayes and Shapiro left the stage, with only Been and his acoustic guitar remaining. "I really don't have a voice tonight, but I'm gonna try to bullshit my way through another song," he said. Then, after a moment, he continued: "Then again, our bullshit sounds better than most people's sincerity," a statement that received much applause, cheering and head shakes. As hackneyed as the sentiment was, we couldn't really disagree with him.
Set List: War Machine / Mama Taught Me Better / Love Burns / Screaming Gun / Bad Blood / Beat the Devil's Tattoo / Aya / Berlin / Weapon of Choice / Took Out a Loan / Long Way Down / Ain't No Easy Way / Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll / Sympathetic Noose (Robert solo acoustic) / The Toll (Peter solo acoustic) / 666 Conducer / Shuffle Your Feet / Conscience Killer / Six Barrel Shotgun / Red Eyes and Tears / Spread Your Love
Encore: Steal a Ride / Rifles / Shadow's Keeper / Open Invitation