brmclive

In April 2002 I journeyed from Tallahassee, Florida to see a Spiritualized concert in Atlanta. A little-known, but fast-rising group that had garnered quick comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain were opening. I left that night raving about Black Rebel Motorcycle Club versus J. Spaceman, and have been an avid, perhaps evangelical supporter ever since. BRMC’s set, which in memory felt about 20-minutes long, rattled me. And to this day, I still can’t shake it.

Thankfully, director/frequent band photographer Tessa Angus has faithfully captured the kinetic power of BRMC’s electrifying concerts in Glasgow, Berlin and Dublin during the trio’s 2007 European tour in support of Baby 81 on Live. Every tambourine jangle, every drum crash, every harmonica freak-out, all the distortion, no filler, and no fuss – it’s all present and accounted for in loving, rowdy detail.

Much of Angus’ resulting footage is, to put it bluntly, too busy. The quick cuts are too severe, the oft-grainy black-and-white too limiting, and the angles, in estimation, seem to change every 15-to-30 seconds. Long, steady shots framing principles Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been and former drummer Nick Jago are brief to non-existent in lieu of intimate close-ups of sweaty, pulsating necks from various angles, or fingers on guitars, or harmonicas, or rugged boots.

On a more positive note, the culled footage does, however, most importantly, succeed in creating a living, exceedingly visceral, suitably gritty record of the band’s time on the road, and the magnetic pull the fans feel towards them. BRMC has always been about communing with their fans, and the presentation Angus settled on, I surmise, was geared towards satisfying and recreating the experience of a BRMC show from a fan’s perspective, versus releasing a perfunctory long-shot captured from mid-audience. Live, quite literally, puts the viewer on stage with Hayes as he grooves and smokes with effortless cool, and beside Been as he leers and towers over the front row, slinging guitar as his weapon of choice. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a member of BRMC, without actually applying for employment or auditioning, this is your chance, buddy. Angus is so thoroughly embedded in the pit, in the wings and on the stacks that it’s a wonder Live wasn’t bundled with smell-o-vision.

Standouts from the concert footage are, predictably, “666 Conducer,” “Ain’t No Easy Way,” “Love Burns,” “Dirty Old Town,” and “Punk Song.” Of the ample bonus features included on the DVD, the intimate and rousing performance of “Rifles” by Hayes and Been at T in the Park is a must-see for fan-band dynamic alone, as is the gorgeous, yet humorous footage of a private jam session of “Feel It Now,” with a playful and personable Hayes on piano. The BBC Radio Sessions showcase the natural partnership between Hayes and Been to glorious effect, while the “Weapon of Choice” making-of footage cast all three band members as cool customers and not arrogant, impatient rock stars, with an especially chatty Hayes front and center. It’s moments like these that make Live a winning prospect and worthy first DVD release for fans of BRMC who are already sitting on their hands in rapt anticipation for the bow of Beat the Devil’s Tattoo in March.

I’ve always espoused the notion that BRMC is woefully overlooked and underestimated. Live as a DVD/CD package is a thrillingly convincing, albeit flawed (again, the MTV/ADHD-style quick cuts) preface and sample chapter to illustrate my long-standing belief. (Vagrant Records/Abstract Dragon) –Carrie Alison