Black Rebel Motorcycle Club wrapped up its sold-out, two-night stand at New York’s venerable Webster Hall last night with guns blazing and new drummer Leah Shapiro in tow. Hey hey, my my.
Drawing from the richest material in their dense, seductively fuzz-laden catalog, the California band played to their strengths, highlighting their adroit ability to switch from trademark reverb-heavy tracks to stunning Americana/folk-esque jams they introduced with 2005’s Howl, without getting lost in the inertia of the ever-present split personality the band is no longer hiding. This is no United States of Tara, but for BRMC, as they hit the open roads yet again for what will surely be another long stint, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo and its stunning (and satisfying) scope and vision is worth the journey.
Shapiro, having assumed the seat behind the drum kit in the wake of former drummer Nick Jago’s departure in 2008, is a spitfire. A self-assured dervish of flailing arms and militant booms and crashes, providing the sturdy, percussive backbone of the patented BRMC sonic wall of assault.
The standard ear-bleed began immediately with Tattoo’s rumbling “War Machine,” giving way to a High Noon-esque outing of “Mama Taught Me Better.” Of the material from the recently released album, in addition to the aforementioned tracks, “Bad Blood,” the title track, “Long Way Down,” a haunting take on “The Toll” and an explosive “Conscience Killer” all slayed; and have been seamlessly integrated with no sign of unfamiliarity. Save for the usual Webster Hall sound system wonk and wank, the show itself did not suffer, although the crowd did for the omission of swampy Tattoo highpoints “River Styx” and “Aya.” The latter of which garnered many screamed requests. “The Toll” lived up to its exceptional studio version, with a soulful Peter Hayes riding his own preternatural groove into harmonica-augmented nirvana.
Old crowd favorites “Red Eyes and Tears” off of the self-titled 2001 debut, was suitably drenched in the overt sexuality the band injects into its finest material, “White Palms,” a rollicking “Berlin,” “Punk Song,” ”Shuffle Your Feet,” a ferocious, sternum-busting “Six Barrel Shotgun” and a cathartic, steamy “Spread Your Love” – indeed, this music was meant to be felt below the belt.
Oddly, the most satisfying moments of the night were some of its quietest. An impassioned acoustic cover of Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” at the hands of Robert Levon Been had many audience members rejoicing, and a heartbreakingly graceful “Open Invitation” with Been and Hayes in harmony closed the evening in much the same way it began – an outstretched hand to enjoy one of the few, genuine rock shows out there from a superb underdog band who walk as they talk and pull no punches. –Carrie Alison, Photo by Tear-n Tan