Words: April Donnelly | Photos: Louise Brady . . . . . .
This was a welcome return by BRMC to promote their seventh album ‘Specter at the Feast’, a record tinged with tragedy, written after the death of the bassists’ father. Michael Been was the frontman for 80’s rock band ‘The Call’ and sadly passed away after having a heart attack backstage at a Belgian music festival. He was there doing the sound engineering for BRMC and this has clearly had a big impact on the band and the music.
The first thing you notice about this band is their look – it’s a black leather-clad thing but not too biker, not too punk. Understated, aloof and most definitely too cool for school. It reminds me of Suede in the 90’s. Add into the mix dark lighting, occasional bright strobes and a bit of dry ice and the end result is dramatic and moody.
Next you realise there are only three of them – bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes met at school while Leah Shapiro’s impressively powerful drums are a recent addition following the departure of Nick Jago. Adding vocal contributions from all three, they generate a rich, heavy sound that is far greater than it’s constituent parts. They kicked off with the catchy ‘Hate the Taste’ and this pleased the crowd greatly. Next up was ‘Beat the Devil’s Tattoo’, from their last album. This is a classic southern, whisky drinkin’ song – any Alabama3 fans in the house? Give this one a listen. Next, noticeably taking the tempo and pitch up a few notches is ‘Let the Day Begin’ a cover of a 1989 hit for The Call. Then comes a third track from the new album, ‘Rival’ – this goes down very well and sees Hayes using every effect and pedal known to man plus a few more besides.
‘Ain’t No Easy Way’ is from their third album ‘Howl’ – named for the Alan Ginsberg poem and film (if you don’t know it already you should go and check it out – there is a gap in your education). The opening riff takes you right back into a bluesy, ballsy lament. The next track is from Baby 81, their fourth album. ‘Berlin’ is much more punky both in sound and with lyrics such as “Suicide’s easy – what happened to the revolution?” But it still has that striking see-saw rhythm I’m beginning to recognize as the BRMC signature.
They slowed things down for ‘Screaming Gun’, a dreamy, shoegazing, indie track and then back to the new album for ‘Returning’. ‘Conscience Killer’ is also from ‘Beat the Devil’s tattoo’ and you might recognize it from the film ‘Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit’. ‘Shade of Blue’ is a beautiful, haunting song from their second LP. Though the album was criticized for being rushed and not as good as their debut, strangely this track is probably one of my favourites. ‘Weight of the World’ is much lighter, more accessible and wouldn’t sound at all out of place on mainstream radio. ‘Sons of Anarchy’ fans would recognize ‘Stop’ which was quickly followed by ‘Funny Games’ (the most psychedelic of all the songs on ‘Specter’) before Robert and Peter took turns in delivering acoustics for ‘The Line’ and ‘Some Kind of Ghost’. Just time for two more from ‘Specter’; ‘Fire Walker’ and the achingly beautiful ‘Lullaby’ and then it was time to launch into their most well known anthem ‘Whatever Happened to My Rock & Roll‘ which got everyone chucking themselves around the dance floor. Back on for an encore they played two more from the back catalogue, ‘Spread Your Love‘ and ‘Six Barrel Shotgun’ before finishing up with the final new track – the very atmospheric and laid-back ‘Sell It’.
Verdict? Black Motorcycle Rebel Club does exactly what it say’s on the tin and we all went home happy.
Check out a special live version of ‘Rival’ right here: