Black Rebel Motorcycle Club stepped on the stage on Monday night at Delmar Hall with one intention: play the music, inject old school rock n' roll into the hearts and minds of attendees, and stay away from the nonsense that plagues so many concerts.
The San Francisco rockers shook The Pageant years ago and did the same with the new venue next door last night. Lead singers and guitarists Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes, along with the resilient drummer Leah Shapiro, put on an amazing show, playing for two hours before a packed crowd dressed in nothing but black.
I appreciate bands that come to play a show and don't bore the audience with political agendas, extra long stories and general distraction. The most you got from this group were occasional "thank yous" and a short story from Been about getting free stuff as a kid when he toured with his dad (who played in a pop band, The Call, when Robert was a kid). Outside of that, the trio played tracks such as "Echo" and "Spook" from their new album, the dynamite Wrong Creatures, as well as old favorites like "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" and "Spread The Love", resisting the urge to bash a President or complain about the environment.
With a name pulled from a 1953 Marlon Brando film, the B.R.M.C. is the rare band that sounds even better live than they do in a recording studio. Hayes' lyrics come through faster to the heart than a blood transfusion, like a psychedelic caffeine that old school music lovers need to escape their own reality. Been is a possessed man on stage, shaking and shifting across the stage like a man who lets the lyrics of his music about hard times, drugs, sex, and love run through his body and rest deep in his bones.
Shapiro, a personal hero of mine, joined the band three albums ago, but saw her entire career and life put to the test by a rare brain condition called Chiari Malformations back in 2014 that required surgery and time off from the band. The band didn't rage on without their female backbone, deciding to halt production and support Shapiro in her fight, which resulted in a successful butt-kicking of the condition and her return to the band for the first album since 2013's Spectre at the Feast. She took the stage in a t-shirt and let her hair fly all around as she worked the drums like someone who was born with percussion playing in the background. She may carry a death stare as she does her thing, but that's music for you. It has to roll over your entire body and senses to take effect.
At one point in the show, Been climbed up on a stack of speakers during a song. Hayes lit a cigarette during a pair of tunes, and each singer shared the duties of handling their catalog of tunes, which range back to their debut in 2001 with their self-titled album, "B.R.M.C". Hayes may sound like Bob Dylan when you talk to him in person, but on stage he has that blues infused rock voice that could have been pulled from the 1970's by a great music collection agency. Hearing Hayes light up a soulful track like "Devil's Waitin" with the crowd singing along was an experience unlike any other, while Been got the stage to play one of his father's old songs.
Every time I tell someone about this band, they get stuck on their name and seem to lose interest. That could be due to the fact that this trio of artists are a nonchalant group of musicians and not pop culture robots propped up on a stage. Losing interest due to a name would be a mistake.
They may call themselves Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (they were originally The Element), but it means something if you break it down. They wear black on stage, sing like rock rebels, treat music like a motorcycle blaring down a lonely dirt road, and form a club with their audience. The club has one rule: play the songs, leave out the nonsense, and make a connection. As Hayes told me after the show, "it takes two". It takes an audience and artist to come together for an escape.
Monday night in the Delmar Loop, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club paid tribute to old school rock n' roll; a time where people got on a stage, gave until it was gone, and left their hearts on the stage. If you ask me, that is a true performance. Delivering on the promise that your album provided.
Wrong Creatures is available on all your devices, and the band will finish up their tour with stops in Denver, Salt Lake City, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, and Oakland. If you live nearby or like road trips out of the blue, go see them live while listening to their albums in the car. It will be an experience worth remembering.
After the show, I waited with three other diehard fans to see if the band would come out and say hello. Hayes and Shapiro did, sparking up conversations instead of running to the tour bus. They posed for pictures, signed tickets, and answered questions. Musicians are in their element on stage, but that doesn't mean they can't hang out for a bit to connect.
I went to Delmar Hall on Monday night for a good show. I received an experience instead, and I am not complaining.