Here’s a review of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show I did for SPIN.com. The show was really fun, except the only part I didn’t like, which I didn’t mention in the story, is that I hate the name Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It’s fucking stupid. If someone asks, “What are you listening to?” and you tell them, “Oh, I’m listening to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,” they think you’re making up a joke band. I know, the name was taken from the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One. It was the name of Brando’s motorcycle gang, which, when I ponder it for a second, makes the name Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sound even stupider. If the angel faced Robert Levon Been walked into a real biker bar with his leather jacket and tattered boots I’m pretty sure he’d be fisted to death.
Anyway, they make great music. And that’s all that counts, man.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club kicked off its world tour Friday night in Sacramento with the elegant wall of fuzz that is “War Machine,” the heady, droning track from the band’s fifth and latest studio album, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo.
The trio, led by singer Robert Levon Been, spent ample time during the blistering two-hour set playing tunes from the new album.
Tracks like the raucous “Mama Taught Me Better” and “The Toll,” a moody country-tinged ballad, led to raised beers and high-fives. The album’s title song, with its poetic chant and melody that gives way to a drum stomp, upped the pace from there.
As the grinding bass line and forlorn hook of “Aya” rang out, it became evident that B.R.M.C. have come full-circle. They’ve refined the angry psych-rock of their self-titled debut album; magnified the bluesy folk of Howl; distilled the grit of Baby 81 and, more importantly, stepped back a bit. They allowed their melodies to wander, while keeping the gothic fuzz, but adding an element of sincerity and, well, joy.
Okay, so joy might be the wrong word, considering that the band barely smiled or talked all night. But through carefully crafted songs, impeccable timing, rich and mysterious guitar riffs, bone-jarring drum stomps, and Been’s mischievous voice — paired with Peter Hays’ gruff tone — the band created an energy that was unmistakably exciting. And, despite outward appearances, it was clear that they were having a hell of a lot of fun.
So it didn’t matter much when Been forgot some words to “The Line,” because soon the audience was screaming along to “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll” and then weaving in a trance-like state to the psychedelic noisefest of “Evol.”
Near the end of the set, Been finally addressed the audience. His face softened into a grin (or maybe a sneer) as he said it felt good to get out of the studio and play their new songs in front of a live audience. “Thank you,” he added, genuinely.
Then he and Hayes played a rendition of “Open Invitation” that was so eerie and sad it made you want to rip your heart out and throw it against the goddamn wall.