Review Black Rebel Motorcycle club digs deep for raw rock at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
Out of L.A. and into our backyard, roaring rock trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club delivered raucous jams to a nearly full house at St. Petersburg’s State Theater Thursday night. From behind the incessant smoke machines and epilepsy-inducing strobe lights came an almost two-hour set that showcased more than half the tracks off their latest release, Specter at the Feast.
The trio — Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been and Leah Shapiro — opened with Hate the Taste, setting the perfect lyrical tone to begin a gig: “I wanna ride with you/Why won’t you take me there?”
Their sound is distinct, but not obvious. It’s a sort of dirty (but in a good way) rock, with sprinkles of blues, alt-country, folk and psychedelia. It’s diverse, but you know it when you hear it. Even the searing riffs sounded like their own during a cover of The Call’s Let the Day Begin — although Been’s late father was in The Call, so that may have something to do with it.
They continued to barrel through songs without much pause, from Rival, Ain’t No Easy Way and Berlin to Screaming Gun. The high energy poured out of them, despite Hayes’ chain smoking whilst singing and playing guitar (admittedly, that was impressive). Been exuded such passion while playing that you could see the intensity gather in the furrow of his brow during Beat the Devil’s Tattoo. Shapiro stayed in the shadows mostly, but from what could be seen, she flawlessly kept rhythm for the boys up front.
What seemed most remarkable about the intra-band dynamic was the way Hayes and Been seamlessly alternated lead vocals and instruments. You can’t quite tell how much they rotated by listening to the album, but the live show lended a firsthand view of their uncomplicated fluctuation, and vocally harmonious cohesion.
About halfway through, the show took a welcome change of pace with slow burning (and personal favorite) Fire Walker and the balladesque and tender Lullaby. But for a band like BRMC, the slow stuff is short-lived and the full throttle rock supersedes. They wound back up into Spread Your Love and encores of Shuffle Your Feet, Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n’ Roll (Punk Song) and Sell It.
The entire set gave play to at least two songs off every album in their back catalog with the exception of The Effects of 333. It was quite a loud and sometimes grinding gig. The instruments outshone the vocals at times, plus the strobe lights and smoke machines, although great for effects, were overkill. Their audible output runs deeper than the State Theater; the next go around, hopefully they’ll play a space more conducive to their sound.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*