Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: O2 Academy, Leeds

It’s just after 7pm and the 02 Academy is already filling up with revellers eager for a taste of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s forthcoming album, “Wrong Creatures” tempered with a generous dollop of their most popular hits. Their first album in five years is still yet to be released, with latest single ‘Haunt’ the only preview to be unveiled so far. But the excitement here is tangible – the audience is largely made up of die-hard fans in leather jackets, who are in no doubt about the consistent quality of BRMC’s musicianship.

Support comes from Texas duo Restavrant, who fill the stage with a vast range of fascinating instruments and equipment. Both members of Restavrant are experimental multi-instrumentalists. Using a homemade drum kit comprised of an eclectic variety of scrap items coupled with a slide guitar, the pair create a soaringly primitive commotion to accompany the grizzly vocals of Troy Murrah. Their garage punk-inspired sound fills the room with a dynamism and the roaring energy of their live set is palpable – in many ways setting the ideal contrast to BRMC’s brooding fuzz rock sound.

The audience wait with baited breath as, one-by-one, BRMC take to the stage. They launch straight into new track ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ and the reason for choosing to open with it is immediately evident. The floor is physically shaking with the visceral drum beat and the bass booms with deep resonance. The audience reaction is mixed – the song is clearly going to be a hit, but (as with any band who have 19 years’ worth of back catalogue) the crowd are keen to hear their old favourites.

There is no disappointment when the band crash into the title track of their 2010 album “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”. The increased vitality is immediate and there is a surge of movement that is matched by the band’s darkly brooding stage presence. Leah Shapiro creates a whirlwind on drums and the whole venue quakes.

A highlight from the upcoming album is ‘King of Bones’ which consolidates the heavy, grungy fuzz and tuneful wailing of BRMC’s signature sound. The crescendo is a stomping, mesmerising triumph that effortlessly showcases the practised genius of all three band members.

Throughout the set, their instrumentals are tight and polished. Lead vocalists Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been transition smoothly between playing bass and guitar and each bring their unique character to the evocative, ominous lyrics. At times, the band’s stage presence seems stiff and their movement during the performance is minimal. However, this is largely redeemed by the overall quality of their collective sound and the rich musical talent on display.

Mournful, atmospheric tracks such as ‘Haunt’ and ‘Question of Faith’ are reminiscent of Nick Cave whilst the climactic, heavy melodies of ‘Red Eyes and Tears’ and ‘666 Conducer’ build layers of heavy synth and fuzzy, tuneful guitar riffs. The audience are treated to separate acoustic performances by vocalists Hayes and Levon Been. Hayes’ sombre murmur and dark, gloomy air oozes the charisma of The Cure’s Robert Smith and Levon Been deftly exhibits a flavour of the American South with his bluesy traditional rock. Hayes jokes with the audience, resulting in more than a few good-natured heckles from the crowd, who have consumed a respectable amount of beer for a Monday evening! This contrasts achingly with his melancholic, emotive acoustic performance.

The set climaxes with crowd favourite ‘Spread Your Love’. The performance is flawless and polished but still manages a dark imminence through the unique combination of Hayes’ lugubrious vocals and the tight, viscous instrumentals that characterise the band’s style.

BRMC end their epic 24-song set with ‘Ninth Configuration’ from their new album as an encore. They have no choice but to return to the stage amidst the audience screams of ‘we want more!’ and their final track, ‘Ninth Configuration’, does not disappoint. The heady mix of heavy bass and drums makes for an atmospheric finale.

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