Live review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Echoplex
When Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took the stage of the Echoplex on Thursday night, the group had a few things to prove. After breaking out in 2001 with a huge buzz -- and not just the one coming from that assortment of overworked amps stacked onstage -- the band has rumbled down a rocky path. This engagement (the first of three sold-out nights at the club) came near the beginning of a tour introducing new drummer Leah Shapiro and flogging a new album, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” that came out Tuesday.
Any concerns were quickly blown away by BRMC’s full-on assault of the senses from the stage, mixing fog and strobe lights, sweeping mini-floods and, of course, the three-person wall of sound led by bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes. The two share vocals, sometimes trading off, at other times overlapping, one bleeding into the other seamlessly.
Occasionally, Shapiro adds a high-end edge, as on the new album’s title track, which came off as kind of a Love & Rockets-style ritualistic chant, with Been putting down his bass in favor of an old acoustic-electric Gibson. Been also switched over to keyboards on a handful of songs and it’s that kind of variety that, in the end, made the two-hour set so satisfying.
BRMC could easily survive on the sheer power of its most room-rattling numbers. Instead, Thursday night’s mix, which sampled generously from the band’s previous efforts as well as new material, included piano-based ballads, solo acoustic efforts by both Hayes and Been, and a smattering of the old-style, harmonica-accented, back-porch blues (think Muddy Waters meets Jimi Hendrix) that they dove into on their third album, “Howl.”
Just when it seemed like the energy level had been taken down precariously low, the L.A.-based band (by way of S.F.) proved it knew exactly what it was doing, building back to a shattering climax, with piercing lights adding to the aural assault of “666 Conducer,” and shortly thereafter sending everyone home with a soothing, laser-accented serenade.
Coming on the heels of an entertaining and occasionally annihilating set from Athens, Ga.’s the Whigs, the evening presented a strong argument for the pure pleasure available from that most basic of rock ‘n’ roll combos: the power trio.
-- Frank Farrar
Black Rebel Motorcycle club plays Friday (March 12) at 6 p.m. at Amoeba Music; at the Echoplex tonight and Sunday; and Tuesday at the House of Blues in Anaheim.
Photo: Bassist-vocalist Robert Levon Been. Credit: Frank Farrar