The true, exemplary “moment” of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s big, beautiful and bombastic return to New York came at the end of the show, just moments before the house lights rose, revealing the myriad but exquisite ways in which we all perspire and wither in extreme heat.

Robert Levon Been had just given his bass away to the teeming pit pressed against the stage; the wild, hungry eyes looking like they’d eat him alive if only for some moisture. It was hot in there. His sweet and nonchalant gift turned ugly, however, when the guitar became a torrid tug o’ war with dripping, sneering audience members who all wanted a lasting piece of the critically-acclaimed and beloved San Francisco trio. Tall guys, small girls, and all sizes in between grappled, pulled, yanked and bitched at each other for what seemed like eons. In truth, probably only 10 minutes, but this was no ordinary slow-churning dervish; no, this was a slow-churning dervish with one special weapon of choice. I hear that security finally stopped the madness and forced the fans to concede and return Been’s gift to the road crew.

For nearly two-and-a-half hours the handsome lads of BRMC gave the sold-out crowd exactly what it wanted: a generous smattering of the band’s woefully overlooked four-album catalog, a tossed tambourine and even audience song requests.

Concentrating on material from the recently-released, Baby 81, BRMC mastered newbies such as “Took out a Loan,” “Berlin”, and “Weapon of Choice” with a bluesy, fuzzy swagger. Piano-driven ballad “Window” found Been tickling the ivories and sending chills through the audience with his lovely falsetto. “666 Conducer” forged a new, electric and bass-heavy identity, care of Peter Hayes’ steady hand and sexy charms. An early showstopping moment came courtesy of a psychedelic “American X”, which clocks in at a ballsy nine minutes. Main set closer “All You Do is Talk” was utterly gorgeous, and unfortunately felt rushed and more rocked-up than necessary.

Notable of the older material: “Ain’t No Easy Way” was a barn-burning marvel; A two-song solo acoustic set of “Fault Line” and “Devil’s Waiting” was spine-tingling, with the audience offering vocal accompaniment to Hayes’ surprised delight; “Mercy” found Been solo, requesting the lights go dark for this “small song”; “Awake”, one of the finest songs off of BRMC’s debut album, was viscerally transcendent and hotter than summertime in the city.

Not content to just rip the roof off the air conditioning-deprived hall, our heroes had to take it one step beyond and ask the audience what it wanted to hear. Cue the rabid fans clamoring for “Rifles” and “Spread Your Love”, which they were duly rewarded with. “Steal a Ride” was a never-before-played treat.

Closing with a jubilant “Shuffle Your Feet” and an impassioned “Heart + Soul”, complete with Been wading into the audience for the latter, BRMC proved yet again why they are a good break away from Arcade Fire-level hysteria (come on radio–give these guys a chance!). For now though, the devoted can hold onto our favorite men in black just a little longer, and as tight as a tourniquet, until we must share them with the rest of the world. A threat, which, like a howlin’ hurricane, is but a wind gust away. –Carrie Alison

  1. [...] For more BRMC, check out our review of their May 31, 2007 show at Webster Hall here. [...]