Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Webster Hall // 04.08.10

Where do I even begin? The word of summation is disappointment. I wasn't expecting the religious experience that BRMC played that night at the Warsaw in on June 2, 2002. That night was, actually, a "make good" for their unexpectedly cut-off set opening for Spiritualized at the Beacon Theater just a few weeks prior. (To this day, I still have a solid story that leaves me convinced that that their tardiness and that subsequent gig in Brooklyn was my "fault." That is a whole other story...long live the Butterfly Effect!) They'd gone through their entire debut album on Virgin and were still getting used to being adored for having only one release. They were darker than the White Stripes and heavier than the Strokes; better than both...combined...if you asked me.

Last night's performance at Webster Hall had been sold out for weeks, and despite the early timeslot (Rebel were set to go on at 8:30pm, mostly because WH has to clear out in time for their club night), I had a feeling the performance was going to overcome any sort of obstacle. There were issues with us getting in, and I was feeling ill to begin with. The music should have persevered but instead there were unavoidable things that ticked me off. Happy to have heard a transformation in the band from bringing on a new drummer - and a female one, to boot - the older songs fell flat. We walked in on "Red Eyes" and tears, which is perhaps the only BRMC song that cannot sound incredible, but even "Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n Roll" and "Love Burns" - especially, "Love Burns" - lacked enthusiasm from any member.

Of course, "It Ain't Easy" was played since it was not only a single but considered their most memorable song from 2006's 'Howl,' right? I don't know. People bitch and moan about how they went too far up Johnny Cash's ass on that one, but I think the slower, gospel choir-invoking songs with Jesus' name appearing more than once in the lyrics are its best moments. BRMC played at Boston's Avalon (R.I.P.) in 2006 and they played almost everything off of that record with Rob Levon Been spending at least 80% of the set on his black upright piano. This time around, it felt as though the big black box was only on stage for show. And in regards to the new album, well, "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" and "Aya" are its best songs. The first went off well, but it's the album's opener and they have a knack for kicking it off strong. "Aya," though, with its most transcendent chorus, came off boring, only to revive the crowd after enveloping us in their most soulful performance...a cover. Granted, it was Elvis' "Love Me Tender," but really?

My friend commented that the band seemed more enthusiastic than when he'd last seen him, but it's worth mentioning that this was at the House of Blues in Orlando during the 'Howl' tour and it was an opening set for Kings of Leon fans. "...and Kings of Leon fans really SUCK," I added. In a venue that holds 1,000, of course they'd be miserable playing to 30. This was different. We discussed it after and ultimately decided that their special rock 'n roll spirit that captivated us almost a decade ago has been waning progressively over the years. I've gone to see the band play every tour through the Northeast without question, but after last night, I may have had my final fill. I'm a long-time fan and a music writer, sure, but last night I was just an audience member soaking in the atmosphere around me and all of its elements. "It seems like with each tour they just get more and more boring," my friend said, "I don't get it."

Neither do I, but I can only assume that I should keep those fond memories of that exceptionally spiritual experience with the band some eight years ago and call it a day. Sad but true.


r said...

that may happen with any group you start out with and follow too long...
its quite a "personal" thing.
For me the show on 4/9 with alberta cross was the best i have ever seen brmc, and encourage people to see them and alberta cross

Ryan Camp said...

These guys give it there all night after night. You can't recreate a spiritual experience, it's just something that happens. And I think it happens more often than not when you see BRMC live. It happened for me Friday night. Not in any huge way, but in small ways throughout the set. There's always that potential... which makes me think I'll opt to see them again next time there in town.