Black Rebel Motorcycle Club | Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA) | December 21, 2012 |
A widely held belief by hippies, hipsters and spiritual path-seekers was that 12/21/12 would usher in the Age of Aquarius: a new and great human era of change. Other intellectually light individuals believed that the world would end. Which would kind of suck. But here on Planet Reality, 10:09pm ushered in a new wave and era of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (aka BRMC) and perhaps that was the conscious point that they wanted to make on such an auspicious date in their adopted hometown of Los Angeles. A new album en route in 2013? Check. Working the new tunes in an intimate space for fresh ears? Yep. Final show ever? No, just of the year because dates are already in place for their world tour in 2013. That’s right, this is serious business! A band so damned garage rock and distorted blues heavy who live and die by razor-sharp with chaotic guitars and the backbone of an unflappable drummer are not to be taken lightly. If BRMC (Peter Hayes, Leah Shapiro and Robert Levon Been) have but one signature (they don’t but for the sake of argument let’s say they do), it would be their penchant for being all about business in the dimly lit performance. Passion and intensity are two tightly wound, securely bound kinetic forces that they agitate and release methodically – almost reverently – until that control rips at the seams while existing in the shadows – literally, figuratively and musically.
The reverence came early, on the eve that all was supposed to end, as they opened with a command for all things to start anew covering the Call’s “Let The Day Begin.” That singular song choice may have been lost on some at the Troubadour but not all: it’s a song made popular by Robert Levon Been’s father, Michael Been (who unexpectedly passed away in 2010), during his years with the Call. Popping the cork with the naked blessings and sheer optimism of a song like “Let The Day Begin” is not the norm but perhaps a sign of things to come. This is a band due for rejuvenation.
Sticking close to home with their set list, eighteen songs were aired out; four of them fresh, shiny, new and loud. Perhaps another conscious decision to ensure everyone’s blood remained hot and pumping in the close quarters of the Troubadour as the band relied on their more angstful and lively tracks from their first two albums (like “Stop,” “US Government,” “Love Burns” and “Screaming Gun” from B.R.M.C. and Take Them On, On Your Own), cherry picked “Conscience Killer” and the title track from Beat The Devil’s Tattoo and “Ain’t No Easy Way” from Howl. Guaranteed to engage between fleshing out the new material and yet Robert (who wears an air of old soul of weariness like a second skin) queried, “Isn’t this the best thing ever?” as if there were any doubt what the response would be. It was pretty damned close [to the best thing ever]; it’s not every BRMC show (or any, actually, that I recall attending) where slam circles and mosh-ing break out during “Six Barrel Shotgun.”
The three pieces that make up BRMC walk that fine musical line between gritty snarls and graceful lamentations and the four new songs placed that aspect of their persona squarely in your face. Where the full-bodied blitzkrieg and punk swerve of “Rival” was all aggressive defiance and yet another example of Been attacking/using his bass as a second guitar, “Lullaby” takes a 180 degree shift to striking loveliness. Common is the knowledge that despite (or maybe due to) his quiet and reticent nature, Hayes is extremely adept at unleashing dense assaults of electric haze and sexy distortion via his Gibson, but “Lullaby” was surely that reminder that he’s also masterful at plucking delicate, melodic notes from the air and landing them precisely where they should be. Such light-fingered yet assured guitar work backed by Shapiro’s steadfast militant beat gave the room pause: a hold your breath so as not to disturb the fragility, kind of pause. It was a “hot damn” moment.
Let’s be honest, as the end of times goes, this was the worst apocalypse ever but every last day on Earth should include having your musical G-spot hit by a band who always digs a little deeper for sonic gold and extends themselves to accommodate the extended family of their gang who have supported them; we’ll call them ‘fans.’ Hayes wished all a “Happy End of the World,” and in typical muted fashion, Been uttered an apology for slighting LA on an occasion or two and if he was referring to that missed Amoeba in-store show, here’s hoping that he/they let it go because it’s a non-issue. The old songs still roar, the new songs prove there is plenty of fire, snarl and grace in their bellies and the last night on Earth with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was just the beginning.