Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Matt Harrold 06/03/2007
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 whet appetites just a little more. Stepping into the confines of the ballroom the first thing that strikes people is how unlike a venue it feels; it seems to have more an air of having thousands of students having sat there to sit exams than hosting rock bands. Hell, there's even disco balls descending from the ceiling, and not in the knowingly cheesy way that KoKo has but more akin to the old school disco back when you were ten. You know, 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 find out when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 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 that the band plays at. 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 lost. The newer material draws a more subdued response as the crowd seems to settle down to draw it in and see where the band's going with the material.
Tonight they are on full form, laying to rest any past demons of being inconsistent live. Earlier in the set Spread Your Love's deep down and dirty vibe, along with 'Ain't No Easy Way' gets the crowd bouncing along. Robert Been and Peter Hayes swap knowing smiles in between songs and seem to be in a fine mood. To the point that even when Been cocks up 'Mercy' forgetting lines twice, it just leaves him with a slightly embarrassed but amused, mirroring the soft chuckles that come out from the occasional audience member. Even the three attempts to start 'Shuffle Your Feet' properly drew nothing but grins and smiles from a band who seem to have realised that they had nothing to lose from showing they've actually got a sense of humour.
It is, of course, the older tracks that draw the biggest response. 'What Ever Happened To My Rock & Roll' doesn't even need the band to do the now famous “1...2...3...4” count in intro, the crowd does it for them before going absolutely mental. Sweating bodies heaving themselves left, right and centre whilst the mosh pit goes crazy to the raw energy of the song. The razor sharp riffing of 'Six Barrel Shotgun' draws the same response but finds the band jamming an extended bridge section which draws the song on for maybe a minute or two longer then normal. It's the anthemic ode to unrequited love 'Heart & Soul' which get's the biggest response of the night, ending in a blaze of strobe lightening as Been pounds his bass like it's the only thing keeping him alive. All the while singing between clenched teeth “Save Me” as the song burns out into a slow jam and the possible makings of another song.
As the band walk off stage the fans either head off out caked in sweat or decide to hang around on the off chance of catching a band member brave enough to step out to say hi. There's an overwhelming sense of satisfaction plastered onto a lot of the faces hanging around, and it's not hard to see why with BRMC putting on one of their best shows in a long time even with the occasional cock up. They carted out a proverbial best of with the exception of a few much loved tracks like 'Love Burns', but then you can't expect them to pull off a other two and half hour gig…right?