Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: O2 Academy, Leeds

The O2 Academy in Leeds was full to the brim and the atmosphere and anticipation was palpable upon entering the building. The venue seemed to be fuller than on any other sold-out occasion that I had witnessed. It was one of those nights where every 30 seconds you were either bumped into or spilt on, but nobody cared as this was a rare opportunity to see an act which is the bar that lots of other bands aim for.

The capacity crowd, and possibly the largest collection of leather jackets in any one room at any one time, greeted Black Rebel Motorcycle Club like long lost heroes as they made a typically understated and modest entrance. This tour coincides with the release of their latest album Specter At The Feast so it was no surprise that the opening tracks were taken from said album, and the crowd listened intently.

Three songs into the set they played ‘Red Eyes And Tears’ and this evoked a lot of emotion within the fans. Despite the eruption from the crowd, complete with moshing and beer throwing, the band continued to play in their own relaxed and effortlessly cool way. The guitars were crisp and the vocals incredibly clear and expertly delivered, even above the noise of the crowd energetically singing with them. The crowd simmered a little as two more relatively new tracks were played before boiling over during ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song)’.

This was a rough and loose performance of a classic, as you might expect from a former member of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the band were clearly enjoying the freedom to express themselves and improvise onstage. This was to be the beginning of the best section of their set with fans favourites such as ‘Ain’t No Easy Way’, ‘Berlin’, ‘666 Conducer’ and ‘Love Burns’ following. Nostalgic revelry was evident amongst the audience with the mosh pit becoming a mass of emotionally induced action and beer flying everywhere.

From this point onwards the gig never quite seemed to relive the heights it had previously achieved and the lull within the crowd was noticeable. This was partly because the fans would not have been familiar with the large amount of new material they played, and also because the new stuff isn’t as rousing and doesn’t have memories attached like the classics do.

The energy returned as they finished on ‘Spread Your Love’ before the inevitable encore. Despite my love of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club going back many years, and how much I had enjoyed the main set, the encore left me feeling disappointed. They chose to play two new songs, ‘Sell It’ and ‘Lose Yourself’, which were impressively creative but fairly relaxed. The fans were clearly yearning for tracks like ‘Weapon Of Choice’ or ‘Need Some Air’ to end their night on a real high. It was still a great occasion to see their atmospheric riff based wizardry live.

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