Stepping into the Troubadour two minutes prior to set time Friday night, I inhaled copious amounts of fog machine air, felt a significant increase in warmth, and settled in to wait in anticipation with the rest of the audience. The stage, dimly lit with blue and purple hues, was already prepped with a guitar technician waiting in each wing. I had battled heavy traffic, packed parking lots, and non-respondant ATM machines to get here, and the exhaustion was enough to make my 16-hour workday feel greater than the performance to come — or so I thought.
I hadn’t heard too much about Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in a while. I first learned about the San Francisco-turned-Los Angeles group in 2005 when I heard “Mercy” in a Holiday Hangover sampler I just so happened to pick up on a whim. I quickly familiarized myself with previous and current material from the rockers, and before I knew it, I was in love. Since the release of Beat The Devil’s Tattoo almost three years ago, though, I’ve only had their latest special edition vinyl to keep me going. That being said, when I saw that the band was playing at my absolute favorite venue in support of their recent announcement of a new album, I was determined to see the show. I wouldn’t miss it.
When they took the stage, the audience erupted with applause. Not wasting any time, the now-trio delved right into a cover of The Call‘s “Let The Day Begin,” a tribute to Robert Levon Been’s father. Right after, they reaffirmed their announcement of new material with “Funny Games.” Consistent with previous releases, the new track featured the same hammering and pulling acoustics jam-packed with energy and resounding vocals that exemplify the idea that, though few on stage, BRMC is great in sound. Their raw, electric strings and the kind of bass that caused drink glasses to slide off the stage and shatter in silence, drowned out by Leah Shapiro’s drumming, had the audience nodding, dancing, swaying, and stomping to the infectious beat.
It’s rare that my personal highlights come so early in a set, but “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” was meant to be played loudly and on stage. The seductive intro and steady pulse of the album-leading song infused the crowd, which by this point was throbbing with energy, and ultimately set the tone for the night. “We’ve fucked you over before, Los Angeles,” Robert Levon Been said mid-set, admitting to skipping over their hometown on previous tours, before expressing the band’s happiness to be able to play a good show in LA with a great audience open to hearing new music. Shortly after, another new track, “Lullaby,” filled the speakers and consumed the room, slowing the pace of the evening momentarily before the band quickly resumed a faster stride with “Ain’t No Easy Way.”
The break in material and performances from BRMC made the show that much better. The band hasn’t skipped a beat, and their return is invaluable to the world of rock n’ roll. Unique vocals by Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been set their sound apart from redundancy while they master the art of sultry, raucous grunge. Welcome back guys — stay a while, won’t you?
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