Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Astoria, London, November 2005
If ‘bang for buck’ is what you always desire from a band, then this concert in particular from BMRC was probably the best value for money I ever got from a gig. Gotta say, I did not have the earth move for me with earlier BMRC records - great stomping singles of rock n roll, but too much ‘style’? When Howl came out, all of a sudden it created from a palette of bluesy Americana and gospel influences. Man, 2005 was a good year for records. Astoria was packed. Uncomfortably so. This had been down in all the papers as a ‘must see gig’, so all of London’s hangers-on were in attendance, standing there, standing still, not even remotely jiggling, let alone grooving. This was one of the worst manifestations of what Fi called ‘The Statues’: people (usually tall guys) who go to gigs to just stand there in the middle of the crowd, blocking the view of excited fans who want to shake it like a Polaroid picture. They were out in force downstairs that night, and she wasn’t happy! BMRC were ridiculously good this night. They played a set that built slowly across their material from Howl, up to their rockers. They began as a two piece to allow for the vocals to shine through, simply on guitars, swapping out for harmonicas or piano for tracks like ‘Promise’, ‘Gospel Song’ and ‘Complicated Situation’. They then added a drummer later, and gradually a fourth musician for percussion, bass or extra guitars I think. As the material got louder and filled out a bit more, so did the line-up – and this worked perfectly. The gig departed smoothly: taxiing into position through dreamy hymns, warming up the engines with blues riffs, then taking off and racing to the jet stream of ‘Spread Your Love’ and ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll’. Again the bonus of the show was that it was like seeing more than one band. That is the best thing about a tight three-piece that can swap instruments & job descriptions during a set - you get your money’s worth. And oh, did it go on. The show kept going, it must have hit two hours plus. We actually had to leave before the end (sacrilege I know) because we were flatting down in South London and were relying on overland trains to get home at a decent hour on a school night. I think we missed one or two songs at most, but BMRC just kept going. I had visions of the lights coming up on them. To many tracks to pick from, but I have always liked ‘Promise’ from Howl, and it is a great example of that stripped back, almost gospel thing they had going on that night. It was played immaculately. Awesome, awesome show. As I said at the start - best value for money ever, and a surprisingly diverse set. Build it up, just to tear it down. Could they ever top that?