Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Live Review: BRMC@Metro 9/20/05

To be honest, I have always been disappointed with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's live performances. I've been a huge fan of the band since day one, but for some reason their live shows just never seemed up to par with their recorded work. The songs essentially sounded the same live, but something was missing. Not enough energy? A lack of stage presence? Not enough fuzz on the guitars?? I could never quite put my finger on it... However, with a brand new album and a brand new sound, I was looking forward to giving BRMC another chance in winning me over with their live show. And, I'm quite happy to report, their headlining gig last week at Metro did exactly that. Not surprisingly, BRMC started their set with all new material from Howl. Guitarist Peter Hayes came out first and performed two songs solo Bob Dylan-style with guitar and harmonica. Once the rest of the band came out, (bassist Robert Turner, drummer Nick Jago and an additional touring guitarist), they plowed through at least three or four additional songs from the new album with Hayes still leading the action on guitars and vocals. Fellow vocalist Turner seemed rather quiet throughout this first part of the set and I was beginning to wonder if Hayes had taken over the reins of BRMC after all of the band's recent tribulations (botched record deal, Jago briefly left the band, etc.). While it seems that Hayes is probably responsible for the more gospel-tinged tracks from the new record, I was a bit premature in thinking that Turner had taken a step back in his role as co-leader of BRMC. As much as Hayes seemed to dominate the first half the set, the rest of the night it was the Robert Turner show, with the bassist taking the lead on classics like "Spread Your Love" and "Red Eyes and Tears" as well as the rest of the tracks from Howl. As an alumnus of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and as someone who strikes more than a passing resemblance to Syd Barrett at times, I think I've always been a bit partial to Hayes in my fandom for the BRMC. However, I'd have to say that Turner is a much stronger vocalist live and, much to my surprise, is the one that is responsible for the vocals on my favorite track from the new record, "Sympathetic Noose." I had another BRMC revelation once the band finally tore into some their older material. I thought the new songs were sounding great and overall thought the band had never sounded better. Then, "Love Burns" started and I remembered why I had been disappointed with them before. Still probably my favorite BRMC jam of all-time, it just didn't have that same exhilarating punch live (especially when the chorus kicks in) as it does when it's crankin' out of the Alpine. It was then that I had the epiphany...hello, it's the lack of overdubs!! Part of what makes BRMC great is their liberal borrowing of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain's patented multi-layered fuzzed out guitar attack. With only one guitar and one bass on stage, the sound just isn't going to be the same. It seems like a few more fuzz pedals wired together could remedy this a bit, but they still probably need two guitarists plugged into amps that go '11' to truly recreate on stage that great sound they had on their debut record. On Howl, of course, they don't have to worry about this problem, because it's a stark record that's almost entirely acoustic. It's much easier to replicate the sounds of this record on stage, and thus, I finally enjoyed BRMC in a live setting. Maybe it was a little residual enjoyment from hearing the new material, but (with the exception of "Love Burns") I thought they sounded a lot better on their older rockers as well. Overall, they just seemed a lot more loose and energetic than I remember them before. (like they almost enjoying themselves up there!?!) Perhaps they're getting better with age? Maybe they've come to terms with being performers in addition to being musicians? Or maybe they've been refreshed by new material, a new record label and a new direction for the band?? Whatever the case, I'm thrilled and hope this is an indication of things to come from BRMC. Photo courtesy of Gabby Hon...check out more of her pics from the night (including a shot of Peter Hayes rockin' the trombone) here


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