Listen to BRMC's amazing album, Howl on JamBase Rhapsody!
Editor's Note: Seriously, if you don't know this album, get on it.
Words by Scott Brendel
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club :: 03.11.06 :: House of Blues :: San Diego, CA
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Remember the great Garage Rock revival of 2000 and 2001? Bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes, Mooney Suzuki, The Detroit Cobras, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were hailed as saviors of rock 'n roll at a time when disposable Pop Prince and Princesses ruled the airwaves. Music, it appeared, was not going to download itself into oblivion after all.
Fast forward to 2006 and Garage Rock is back in the garage: The Strokes released their "comeback" third album, The White Stripes released their "difficult" fifth album, The Mooney Suzuki worked with hit single producers The Matrix to disappointing results, and BRMC survived inner-band turmoil and parting ways with Virgin Records to release the folk-stomp of Howl.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club by Mr. Bill Rocks
Howl initially shocked many fans, but it ultimately gave the band what it had been lacking to rise above the fads - musical depth. By turning off the amps and fuzz boxes, Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been and Nick Jago expanded their music palette by drawing upon their love of beatnik/folk/gospel genres and connecting those musical paths to their patented hypnotic feedback brand of rock 'n roll.
Those in attendance Saturday night at the House of Blues in San Diego witnessed the band transforming itself into a formidable live entity. Where in past concerts, the sheer volume would often obscure the soulful singing by both Hayes and Been (formerly known as Robert Turner), now there is ample room for both vocals and instruments to breathe comfortably.
Peter Hayes - BRMC by Fu-Na
Beginning the show quietly, Peter Hayes strolled on stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica bridge and strummed into "Feel It Now," "Faultline," and "Restless Sinner," causing many in the crowd to put down their cell phones and listen quietly, which in San Diego is a feat in itself.
Been, Jago, and touring guitarist/keyboardist Spike Keating (also of Swoon 23) joined Hayes and got the foot-stomping folk of "Shuffle Your Feet" grooving with the crowd. With spot-on vocal harmonies and the addition of Keating on guitar, the song highlighted how the largely-acoustic songs from Howl can rock and get people's feet moving and their heads bobbing.
This rhythmic journey continued as the band upped the ante with the slide guitar fest of "Ain't No Easy Way." At this point, both the band and the crowd were more than warmed up, leading the way to the classic hypno-riffs of "Rifles" from the self-titled 2001 debut album.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club by Janeeliza
Classic songs like "White Palms," "Six Barrel Shotgun," and "In Like the Rose" followed, showcasing the seductive narcotic that is the rhythm section of bassist Robert Been and drummer Nick Jago.
BRMC smartly wove new songs between its louder back-catalog, giving the show balance and a chance for the crowd to catch its breath. Highlights included "Sympathetic Noose" and the aptly-titled "Gospel Song," featuring Been on upright piano.
Never a band to overlook their B-sides, San Diego was treated to the kaleidoscopic groove of "Fail-Safe" off the Screaming Gun EP. Bathing the crowd with waves of reverberated distortion from his Gibson ES-350, guitarist Peter Hayes took the audience for a sonic journey through rockers like "Red Eyes and Tears" and "Spread Your Love" before the entire band unleashed its rally cry with "Punk Song (Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N Roll?)"
I fell in love with the sweet sensation
I gave my heart to a simple chord
I gave my soul to a new religion
Whatever happened to you?
Whatever happened to our rock 'n roll?
Whatever happened to my rock 'n roll?
Peter Hayes - BRMC by Fu-Na
Beginning the encore as he did the show, Hayes emerged armed with guitar and blues harp.
"Looks like you've been telling your friends about us," Hayes said in one of many thanks throughout the night. Unlike the U.K. where the band has a huge following, BRMC have built their fan base in the States through relentless touring and word of mouth, and the perseverance was rewarded with a capacity crowd.
Launching into the slide guitar-tinged B-side "Grind My Bones" and the beautifully sparse acoustics of "Devil's Waiting," Hayes brought the crowd full-circle as the rest of the band joined him on stage. The final songs of the night, "Heart + Soul" and "Open Invitation," allowed fans to witness both eras of BRMC merging into one and gave everyone in attendance a glimpse of the band's musical future.
And rest assured, the future looks damn good.
Feel It Now
Shuffle Your Feet
Ain't No Easy Way
Six Barrel Shotgun
In Like the Rose
Weight of the World
Red Eyes and Tears
Spread Your Love
Grind My Bones
Heart + Soul
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