One of the first, if not the first time I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was when they opened up for Spiritualized at The Vic about 5 years ago. At the time, I couldn't have been a bigger fan of their debut record, but I remember being really disappointed with their live performance that night. The songs just didn't have the same punch as on the record and the band members themselves seemed really stiff and unenergetic (too many drugs with Jason Pierce on the bus, perhaps?).
When they toured in support of their second record, it seemed like their live presentation had improved a bit (they at least appeared a bit less sedated), but it wasn't until they toured in support of their last record, Howl, that BRMC finally won we over with their live show. A lot of the new material on that album ended up sounding even better live than on record and they even seemed to breathe a little more life into some of their classics. Overall, they just came across as a lot more focused on the live performance overall, rather than just focusing on playing each song note for note.
While their set last night was surprisingly void of a lot of their classic tracks, once again BRMC proved that they've come into their own as a live force that's every bit as powerful as their studio output. As expected, the band kicked off their live set with "Took Out A Loan," the crunchy opening track off of their new record, Baby 81. From there the band tore through almost all new material, only veering off to play one song each of from their last three records; "In Like The Rose" (from Take Them On... "), "Ain't No Easy Way" (from Howl) and "Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll" (from the s/t debut).
The highlight of the night for me was easily the very end of the first set, and the short acoustic interlude that followed. After swapping out his bass for lead guitar and vocal duties on "Need Some Air," Robert Turner then lead the band into a raucous performance of their new 9+minute jam, "American X." The band then left the stage, but primary guitarist Peter Hayes came right back out with acoustic guitar and harmonica in tow to play "Fault Line" and "Devil's Waitin'" from Howl, easily my favorite two tracks from that record.
The juxtaposition of Robert rocking out the extensive solo on "American X" followed by Peter kickin' it Dylan-style really summed up why I continue to love this band. Sure, a lot of it is that I'm a sucker for their dark, rootsy sound (literally all but two of their songs are in a minor key), but I also love the fact that they are truly a "band" and not just one singer/songwriter with a supporting cast. I've always been a sucker for bands that mix things up instrumentally and vocally, and Robert and Peter play off of each other really well. Sometimes, when listening to their albums, I even forget who is who on vocals. At times I've thought that I like Peter's songs better (like he's the Lennon and Robert is the Macca), but when seeing them play live I've noticed that I like just as many Robert-led tunes as I do Peter-led tunes. Despite all of the grumblings about BRMC just being another JaMC or the flack they got for going acoustic on their last record, I still think they're the real deal and we can expect a lot more good things from the band in the near future. And if you haven't had the chance to check them out live recently, I'd highly recommend giving them another listen.