Home > Entertainment, Lifestyle, Tune in > Tune In: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Plays at Sold-Out Webster Hall Show

Tune In: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Plays at Sold-Out Webster Hall Show

By Matt Surrusco

The first time I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, after the encore, Peter Hayes offered his bass guitar to a fan in the crowd. After a near scuffle between a half dozen BRMC devotees (or passionate EBay sellers), a venue employee had to pry the bass from a man’s hands and take it away. Nevertheless, the act showed how much BRMC is willing to give to their audience – their hearts, souls, and even their instruments.

Now with a remixed lineup, including former Raveonettes drummer Leah Shapiro and band founders Robert Levon Been (guitar, bass, vocals) and Hayes (guitar, bass, vocals), the fuzzed out rock and roll trio continues their mission of providing trippy/distorted/alternative rock for the masses. They are now touring in support of their latest album “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo” (released March 9 off Abstract Dragon/Vagrant).

At Webster Hall on Friday (April 9), the California natives debuted news tracks, including “Mama Taught Me Better,” “Bad Blood,” and the album title track “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo.” Although each song continues the tradition of Hayes and Been alternating guitar, bass and vocal leads, the title track is the catchiest and most unique. Hayes still plays the bass more like a distorted second guitar than a strictly rhythmic instrument, which works well in a band without a third guitarist.

While only a smattering of old songs made the set list, BRMC pleased New York fans with “Whatever Happened to My Rock’n’Roll,” “Six Barrel Shotgun” and “Shuffle Your Feet.” When Hayes produced a tambourine and Been, a harmonica, the crowd began applauding immediately for the intro to “Ain’t No Easy Way,” a crowd favorite from BRMC’s 2005 release “Howl.” The one and a half hour set was split by a two song interlude during which Hayes and Been each played solo acoustic songs, Hayes covering Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” (Cliché and uninspiring. Most fans held private conversations while Hayes and Been played for themselves).

The entire venue was drowned out in fog and flashing lights for most of the show. Although lights can enhance a performance, extra visuals can also distract from the music, and the near-seizure inducing strobe lights definitely took away from a number of songs (especially when the stage lights blinded people in the audience).

BRMC played back-to-back sold out shows at Webster Hall on April 8 and 9, and also appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC on the 9th, before leaving the U.S. for one show in Toronto and then a number of dates around the UK and Europe. Some of the new tracks from “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” may be worthwhile upon a second or third listen, but many have moved away from BRMC’s slide-guitar driven, scuffle stomps, originated on their first three albums.

 Still, the new songs that don’t drone on for too long, and emphasize Hayes’ echoing vocals, the frontmen’s scratching guitar riffs and repetitive bass thumps, along with the addition of Shapiro’s well-disciplined and well-meshing percussion, are great additions to BRMC’s expansive live catalogue, now covering five full-length albums and nearly a decade of music. Not to mention the allusions to Edgar Allen Poe’s writing (the album title and song “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo comes from a short story by Poe) are dark, mysterious and perfect complements to the band’s image and sound.

Hear BRMC for yourself here.

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  1. January 29, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    You raise a very interesting point. I appreciate how you wrote this. Amazing post. I wholely agree. Well done.

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