By Jamila Pomeroy
The Commodore Ballroom
February 19, 2018
VANCOUVER – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club get an A+ for effort, for trying to rock the Commodore Ballroom on such a crisp Monday evening. The band’s eighth studio album, “Wrong Creatures”, came out early this January. While perhaps still too fresh to have the new material, embedded into the lips of fans, there was a clear appreciation and enthusiasm.
The band greets through smoke and green lighting, decked out in leather and biker boots. Visually, there is a clear nod to rockabilly fashion, with a southern blues-rock twist. Robert Levon Been’s, Robert-Smith-esque hair covering his face, as Peter Hayes slides his fingers through greased back silver hair, just missing his thick sideburns. Leah Shapiro sat still at the drums, commanding the stage. It would have been an untrue assumption to believe the three piece, wouldn’t ratle the venue. The sold out show had the pit was packed long before the band hit the stage, after Night Beats did an excellent job in warming the room. Concert goers sporting button ups and blazers, biker jackets, cheetah print, and knuckle tattoos. While shows of the past have been described to have a motorcycle gang, dive bar feel, the crowd was considerably more classy and composed.
Beginning with “Spook” off of “Wrong Creatures”, leaning into shakes to an early 90’s, Stone Temple Pilots vibe. Leah Shapiro’s power and drive on the drums was absolutely incredible throughout the entirety of the set. Shapiro contributing to a trend, and daresay revolution, of badass women keeping tempo, commanding the stage, and displaying how sexy and empowering playing the drums can be. The musicians talent was clear, with Hayes often playing Harmonica with bass or guitar; Been and Hayes effortlessly trading vocals, alongside with the bass and guitar.
A few songs into the set, the band plays a fan favourite, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”. This is the kind of song you’d key your ex-boyfriends beautiful vintage corvette to, while riding off on a Harley, sporting red fiery lipstick. While destruction of both private and public property is illegal in the city of Vancouver, BRMC would undoubtedly be the soundtrack to sexy rebellion.
About a third of the way through their set, cotton candy pink and blue stripped lights circulate, resembling the coverings of a circus tent. “Circus Bazooko”, off of the bands new album, begins to play. Old carousel and ferris wheel sounds emmet from the stage, casting a playful and slightly creepy spell on the audience. Lightly driven, fuzz guitars weaving in and out of the circus patterns, as the crowd connectivity sways; spectacles of some sort of blues carnival. The set continues on with high energy BRMC staples, as the crowds energy begins to grow, although nothing matches in performance, in regards to creativity.
The band takes the hint and simmers down with the song “Echo”, under deep pink lights. The song features a clean melancholy bass riff and lightly driven guitars, that cascade into an echoing, shimmering guitar outro. This, being almost unrecognizably soft in comparison to their early work. The heartfelt, calm atmosphere continues with a few acoustic songs, alternately played by Been, and Hayes. While blue lights and fog cascade onto the stage, observing audience, Been, sits down at the piano. The most dreamy sounds emit, as they begin to play “All Rise”. Catching the audience off guard, they slowly sway as drums begin to march with the tempo, growing with the ballad. Technically speaking, the song is brilliant; the layers and harmonies between the vocals, guitar, and the constant piano, elevate the performance in elegance. Yes, this is most definitely a new era of BRMC.
The crowd aggressively stomped their feet, banged tables, and spilt beers, while requesting an encore. Been draws to the front of the stage and thanks his crew in length. He shares that they almost didn’t make it to the show because they were drunk in the morning trying to fix something with their wheels, almost as if they need to remind the crowd you can be a rebel and sophisticated at the same time. With the wide range of directional possibilities Wrong Creatures has set, who knows what is to come. If we can be certain about anything, it is that there are so many layers to the 20 year old band, that is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; that, and there will always be leather.