Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Matt Harrold 07/06/2003
It's been nearly a year and half since BRMC played a headline show in London, a mammoth two and a half hour show at a sold out Astoria back in November of 2005. Since then they've been stuck in the studio, working away feverishly to put together the follow up to the critically acclaimed 'Howl' album in the form of 'Baby 81'. So it's with baited breath that fans are queuing up outside the Bloomsbury Ballroom, waiting to have just a short glimpse of what the new material sounds like whilst in the background the sounds of the band sound checking filters from the wall to wet appetites just a little more.
Stepping into the confines of the ballroom the first thing that strikes you is how un-venue like it feels, it seems to have more an air of having thousands of students having sat there to sit exams then hosting rock bands. Hell there's even disco balls descended from the ceiling, and not in the knowingly cheesy way that the KoKo has but more akin to the old school disco back when you were ten. You know, that period of time when you spent most of the time avoiding the opposite sex instead of trying to get into their pants?
Still what it lacks for in aesthetic appeal it more then makes up for in sound quality as the crowd finds out when Black Rebel take to the stage to rip straight into new track 'Berlin'. It's heavenly to actually hear the band without the reverb and distortion being down to the acoustics of a poor venue or a PA system that can't take the sure volume of sound pumped out. Vocals come out crisp and clear so when it comes to upcoming single 'Weapon of Choice', Peter Hayes bursts into the patriotism baiting chorus of “I won't waste it/I won't waste it/I won't waste my love of a nation” with none of the anger or fire being lost. The newer material as a whole seems to fit perfectly into a set that is as close to a best of as half an hour will allow. The new material like 'Need Some Air' casts a quieter charm on the venue as people stop to let it sink in before offering a round of applause.
Tonight the band is on full form, lying to rest any past demons of inconsistent live shows. Early in the set 'Spread Your Love' and 'Ain't No Easy Way' get the crowd bouncing along. Robert Been and Hayes swap knowing smiles in between songs and seem to be in a fine mood. To the point that even when Robert Been cocks up 'Mercy', forgetting lines twice. It just leaves him with a slightly embarrassed but amused smile, mirroring the soft chuckles that come out from the occasional audience member. Even the three false starts for 'Shuffle Your Feet' draw nothing but grins from a band who seem to have realised that they don't need to prove themselves anymore. Yes, you've read it hear, BRMC have a sense of humour!
Other fan favourites which get aired tonight include the lead heavy 'White Palms' which always gains a sense of energy, which seems to be somewhat subdued when it comes to the album version. 'Six Barrel Shotgun's finger shredding rift opens up, before descending into a mid song jam between the band who are confident enough to push it to the edge, riding the fine line between self indulgence and thrills to land on the right side of the divide. 'What Ever Happened To My Rock And Roll' doesn't even need the infamous “1…2…3…4” intro sung by the band anymore, the crowd is more then happy to open the proceedings instead. Of course it's left to the last song to get the crowd going completely nuts. 'Heart & Soul' becomes ground zero as Robert Been pounds his bass guitar like he's possessed by the devil himself whilst those who know their lyrics sing their hearts out in the reverent belief that music still stands for something.
So it comes to the end of another gig, and another night in the capital. People walk out with sweat glistening on their skin and hair plastered to their heads, but the most common look is the satisfaction that seems to be written onto everyone's faces. Though BRMC may have not played the perfect gig they managed something else even more important, letting people know that they're back with all cylinders firing. Taking the world back on again and maybe, just maybe saving a few people from the banality of the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and the MOR brigade.