Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Turner Hall Ballroom
May 14, 2013
The extent to which the garage-rock revival of the early aughts was in fact a thing, a genuine resurgence of the tried and true sound as opposed to something dreamt up by a bored and opportunist rock press, is debatable, but however we were introduced to them, many of the key acts of the time are still familiar faces. People may lament the demise of The White Stripes, but Jack White’s still in the mix as an artist and as the eccentric impresario of Third Man Records, a new Strokes album generates a fair share of excitement and as for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the San Francisco by way of Los Angeles rockers seem to be bigger now than when they were purportedly in the zeitgeist. They’ve mainly accomplished that by sticking in there, diligently releasing solid albums, like the new Specter at the Feast, more or less every two years for the last decade, growing their fan base with each one.
A surprisingly large chunk of that fan base turned up at Turner Hall Ballroom, especially for a Tuesday night. Looking around, there was no shortage of the usual hipsters, but there were also a striking number of those middle-aged and older. That’s noteworthy, but not exactly surprising; there’s nothing the least bit cutting-edge or inaccessible about B.R.M.C.’s equal-parts formula of Stooges-style riffs, Love and Rockets’ quasi-Goth moodiness and the ’60s hero worship of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (of whom guitarist Peter Hayes is an ex-member), but if they’re not particularly original, they at least know how to put the pieces together well. Examples of that here came in the form of standout newer material, such as Specter at the Feast’s “Rival” and the title track of Beat the Devils Tattoo, as well plenty of older entries, even a good chunk of their eponymous debut, including “White Palms,” “Red Eyes and Tears” and “Whatever Happened to My Rock ’n’ Roll (Punk Song)”.
The trio was tight and engaged throughout their nearly two-hour set, but even though none of the selections were bad per se, the order they put them in could use some tinkering with. After getting off to a rollicking, stomping start, putting out an energy the crowd was clearly responding to, they abruptly stepped on the brake about halfway through with a new down-tempo ballad and a solo acoustic song from both of the frontmen, Haynes and Robert Levon Been, on guitar and piano respectively, a shift the audience appeared a little confused by. They brought things back up eventually, with some of their roomier jams, but the excitement level never fully recovered. Why they didn’t just wind down into the intimate numbers, seeing as how they closed with the emotional new “Lose Yourself” anyway, or just intersperse them throughout, is a little confusing, but awkward pacing aside, you could see why B.R.M.C. have lasted longer than the cloud of hype that bore them.