With a new album only months away Getintothis’ Howard Doupé heads down to Manchester to see who still remembers the post-punk rockers.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are re-energised and raring to go, out on the road in anticipation of their eighth album titled Wrong Creatures due next year.
Tonight they return to Manchester and from the get go seem genuinely chuffed to be here. In a heaving room the heat rises from an eclectic mix of young students, seemingly on a semester-long bender and ageing rockers, looking like converts to the cause since BRMC‘s 2001 debut. The air of anticipation hangs for a band that many here will have been waiting a long time to see live.
As stage time approaches, the end of each song played over the PA is met with increasing volume. An eager and demanding crowd is in anticipation. Five minutes after stage time and the hollering is on a par with what is usually reserved for after song applause.
As Black Rebel Motorcycle Club hit the stage it’s evident tonight is going to get lively. At the first sound of something more familiar in the form of Beat The Devil’s Tattoo (from 2009’s same titled album) from there’s a huge cheer, a drink thrown and a surge towards the front. I can’t recall a gig where this much youthful energy was on show as the song fades to a mad singalong of la la la’s.
As the set weaves from all over their back catalogue the musical journey offers up fragments of the rocky road it has been. One minute it’s fast paced stomping rockers, the next it’s almost the greatest distorted shoe-gazing you’ll ever hear.
As guitarist Peter Hayes makes his way calmly through the set preferring to conserve energy and focus, it’s bassist Robert Levon Been who is enticing the crowd, raising his bass guitar as if riffs are bullets to be fired at will.
There’s still the desire and blatant ‘fuck you’ rock n roll attitude they’ve always had. The edges, with time are just slightly rounded.
More rapturous applause came after Ain’t No Easy Way– the first of many from 2005’s Howl. The largely acoustic album cuts tonight worked surprisingly well with this boisterous crowd, instead of dipping it merely provided more singalong moments.
Right back to their swagger-style of Berlin and the respite is over, the bottles of beer are flying high. Yes, this is where gutter rock still exists and BRMC do it so well.
The only let up of the night happens with the road-testing of new material. The sound of prowling in the shadows: brooding and revealing as they crawl along.
If BRMC once stood for leather, attitude, exuberance and distortion they’re now shuffling through apocalyptic wasteland with a magnitude of fuzzed doom weighing down their shoulders. Yes, they were politely received. The slower tempo and gloomier suicide-soundtracked tones just don’t resonate tonight, ultimately highlighting (in tonight’s crowd at least) people want to hear, jump and singalong to the familiar.
Black Rebel Motorcycle club from last night at Manchester Academy,one of my favourite all time bands , awesome live pic.twitter.com/hgj7KTP4pV
— Andrew McGee (@Mugs7) October 28, 2017
By the time those singles from their debut come a knocking they’ve succeeded in sending the bulging mosh pit into overdrive. Love Burns followed by Stop – the grooves are coming, fatter and dirtier, Been attacking his bass as if he’s conducting some personal experiment to see if it sounds better with strings unattached from the neck.
After a brief acoustic interlude, one from each of the two frontmen, a calming, aura swamps the venue. Hands aloft- the light breaks through the dark. More high energy tracks follow and take the set right up to curfew.
As the band head into what is undoubtedly their anthem, Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song), Been holds aloft a fan made flag. Yes, it’s black and in bold white letters reads ‘BRMC ARE BOSS’. After tonight’s show it’s pretty hard not to agree.
Support tonight came from Restavrant. This electro, country, blues punk two-piece from Austin featured a gravelly voiced blues punk singer from Austin who looked like he’s learnt the trailer park guide to singing. Using drums assembled from various pieces of random acoustic and electric drums including a plastic bucket in which mid-set highlight was thrown away leading to a hastily replacement by one of BRMC’s plastic drum cases.
Images by Getintothis’ Lucy McLachlan