Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-Live @ Masquerade

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is the band name, not a place.  The Masquerade is a place, not a band.  In case you’re trying to make sense of it...

For a while, I’ve been wanting to go to a straightforward rock concert, and BRMC fit the bill.  Even better, it included my (less regular than he used to be) concert buddy and a former co-worker who was in town.   I shouldn’t fail to mention our perfect pre-concert burger and beers and The Book House Pub, located only a block away from the venue.  We also wisely parked near The Masquerade, in advance of the crowd.  And... we timed our entrance just right, skipping the first two bands, which equates to a second fine beer at the above mentioned pub and less sore backs by the time the evening was through. 

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The show was upstairs at the venue (“Heaven”), which is a larger space than the downstairs venue (“Hell”).  I  have yet to make it “Purgatory,” which exists there somewhere.  We arrived to find a good crowd already on hand, yet one that yielded fairly easily to get us into the front third of the standing area.

BRMC is currently a three piece band.  I’m not overly familiar with their music, other than a few older songs that I know pretty well and their new CD thoroughly, which I’ll get around to reviewing.  As it turns out, they played to my strengths, playing 10 of 12 of their new songs.  It seemed the crowd was somewhat familiar with the songs, but the older ones got a higher share of “hell yeahs!” and such.  Still, I thought the newer songs played well in the set, though the encore, which included two new ones, was a bit of a disappointment.

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For the band, I’ve decided that a suitable description is a tight-lipped performance.  Drummer Leah Shapiro was hidden in the shadows, but not so much that I didn’t notice that unless she was singing, she never opened her mouth.  Drumming requires energy, and for two hours, she banged away, all but expressionless and... tight lipped.  Respiratory capabilities aside, she and her band maters were, for the most part, fairly stoic, each to their corner of the stage triangle.

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And, that’s okay.  The drums are key to the band’s sound, which thrives on the low end of the sound spectrum, whether it be the bass drum, bass guitar, or some guitar leads.  The band’s essence lies there.

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Meanwhile, bassist Robert Been and guitarist Peter Hayes have eerily similar voices, both which reach consistently above their instruments.  This is quite good on record, but particularly in concert, because they’re easily heard.  Both were in excellent voice, and it was refreshing to hear a band play to their own sound rather than the fleet-fingered theatrics that are more common today.  Control of tone, slide guitar, pounding bass... it works today just as well as it did in yesteryear.  Add in some riffs that hit hard on the treble, and they’re built for rock ‘n roll. 

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The leather jackets fit the band’s name and their image, just as Been’s James Dean coiffure and Hayes’ Wolverine lamb chops, but the jackets didn’t survive the venue’s heat.  They came off after a few songs.

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But tight-lipped also applies to the band’s interaction with the audience, which was sparse.  We were the biggest crowd they’ve had in Georgia.  Okay.  They’re from California.  Okay.  Nary a song introduction, a stab at humor, a plug for their new CD... just about nada.  I don’t know if the audience minded or not.  Pabst Blue Ribbon ruled the evening, and the music was good.

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By the way, see what I mean by hidden between the lights?

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In fact, the aural experience was surprisingly good, as was the ever changing lighting.

Each of the leaders had turns at acoustic songs, both of which were very well received... by those listening.  It was oddly apparent without the weight of the music how many “fans” were chatting – it reverberated through both songs.

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One of the more esoteric observations was the use of LED lights.  They blind like any other, but they leave behind honeycomb imprints rather than just bright spots.  It’s kind of a funky after image.

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Below is the view from near the back.  Standing in a crowd and taking pictures are both reminders of how tall people tend to flock to the front and women, particularly, seem to suffer throughout the show, stretching and bending, hoping for a glimpse of the band above someone’s shoulder.

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My concert buddy spied the incontrovertible set list when we first arrived.

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All in all, it was a good show and a great night out.  They’re not one of my favorite bands, but I enjoyed the both the song selection, especially as I was most familiar with their latest CD.  I think the audience would have preferred something quite opposite, their own tight lipped restraint apparent.

3 of 5 STARS

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