Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver bombastic, potent show at Turner Hall
- MONDO LUCHA! celebrates fifth anniversary in high-flying style at Turner Hall
- David Sedaris goes off book, shines at Pabst Theater
- Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck offer glimpses of greatness at Riverside Theater
- John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman give Pabst Theater three shows for price of one
- Top 5 musical moments from Kenosha’s 2013 Ride of the Living Dead
Straight-ahead rock and roll may have become fashionable again in the past couple of years, but few bands take the fashion aspect of it as seriously as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes emerged onto the Turner Hall stage Tuesday night looking every bit like Hollywood’s dream of the eternal badasses signified by their band’s name, straight from a brightly-lit hairdressing appointment. Their studied nonchalance throughout the performance was James Dean’s ghost incarnate, and their simple but effective lighting rig burned into the retinas of the attendees as surely as the thunderous bass and clanging guitars rang in their ears well after the lights went up. It’s risky to play the part this well, trying to breathe life into riffs that have already been written and rewritten countless times, but BRMC’s commitment to its bare-bones musical ideals made for an irresistibly potent show.
BMRC started out in the late ’90s yipping at the heels of fellow Jesus-And-Mary-Chain-worshippers The Brian Jonestown Massacre (of which Hayes had been a member), but quickly abandoned the neo-psychedelic trappings in favor of stripped-down rock. The group has stubbornly stuck to this formula like an Angus-less AC/DC, despite a significant foray into rootsier, folky material in the middle of the last decade. The band kept such mellow fare to a minimum here, although Milwaukee was treated to a rare solo performance of “Promise” by Been on the upright piano, and the Howl double-shot wrapped up with Hayes doing “Devil’s Waitin’” solo acoustic, and Been rejoining him for the deep harmonies on the outro.
Otherwise, the highlights were slow-burners and barnburners. Old tracks like “Berlin” and especially “White Palms” will sound positively meek to anyone listening to them on CD after experiencing these bombastic live renditions, but the most beastly moments came from the generous helping of songs from the new Specter At The Feast. Blistering takes on “Fire Walker,” “Rival,” and “Sell It” should inspire people to revisit the initially underwhelming album. The night’s finale, “Lose Yourself,” wasn’t the obvious choice for a closer; it’s a somewhat sorrowful meditation, but it swelled in ridiculously powerful waves of sound and overwhelmed the packed house. The new record doesn’t signal any significant stylistic evolution, but the emotion contained in its best songs suggests this band’s glory days may not yet be past.
Opening act thenewno2 was an appropriate warm-up, but the brainchild of classic rock scion Dhani Harrison (son of George) had a few too many gizmos in operation for the acoustics of Turner Hall to handle. When the band chose to rock out, the triple-guitar attack was beefy enough to come across effectively, but Harrison’s knob twiddling and button punching (not to mention his vocals) weren’t coming through clearly, so the crowd only got a portion of the full sound that the band was attempting to convey. As such, it was hard to tell whether the fringe elements are still trying to integrate themselves into a definitive sound or if Harrison is still searching for his style, but he’s got enough solid tunes under his belt to suggest he might still carve out his own niche beyond his father’s shadow.