Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Bodega

16:00, Nov 20 2013

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Tuesday, November 19, Bodega, Wellington

Reviewed by Simon Sweetman

Californian retro-rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are in it for the long haul. The band formed some 15 years ago and, despite a couple of changes on the drum stool (current drummer Leah Shapiro has been in the fold since 2008), the group's sound has, largely, stayed the same.

There was the fan-favourite, 2005's Howl, featuring a mix of country, blues and gospel-derived acoustic songs which now provides a few harmonica-harness moments in any live set and some stripped-back encores – but for the most part Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (or BRMC as they are affectionately known) rolls out Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired sludge and shoegaze moments, but with the buzzing riffs and post-grunge swirling textures that see them mentioned alongside the likes of Dandy Warhols and BRMC lead singer Peter Hayes' old band, Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Frankly, the Black Rebel crew do little to control the mood of the evening. Strong opening tracks including a nearly chest-beating Beat The Devil's Tattoo give hints that it's going to be a good night, but all too soon the set lulls with too many same-sounding stare-at-the-floor, slow-trudge songs, the leash dragging, the tail barely wagging.


And it's hard to know if the sold-out venue is seeing so many walk-outs because the music gets very boring or because it's hot and packed. Probably a little of both.

There are moments when Hayes and bassist Robert Levon Been create a hypnotic groove, the melodic textures swirling, pulling in more than one direction, all calmly anchored by Shapiro's canny drumming. But there are some dead spots – transcendent for the fans perhaps, but to my ears only trace-around approximations of transcendence.

BRMC is a band I want to like more than I do. And this performance was better than the group's 2010 show (which was marred by a flu bug, apparently).

Still, I have the same complaint – the songs are simply not memorable.

It's all fleeting, even though the band sounds like it knows what it's doing.

The Dominion Post