Live Reviews

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Underworld, London

4 July 2002


There’s more than a hint of excitement running through tonight’s audience at the Underworld, as BRMC play a packed warm-up gig on the eve of their third-on-the-bill support slot at Oasis‘s three-night mud-infested shows in Finsbury Park. “We’ve wanted to do one of these gigs for a while,” says Robert Turner, BRMC’s bassist and vocalist, in a rare between-song intonation to the audience. “We’ve been doing a lot of festivals, but we like playing closer to you guys.”

While the Oasis gigs are a golden opportunity for the San Franciscan trio to net a few more non-believers, tonight is very much a gig for the converted. Support bands are replaced by Robert Turner on the decks with a choice selection of everything they’ve ever pilfered; from ’60s garage and classic Bob Dylan to Nine Inch Nails and The Verve.

The band finally emerge onstage in near-darkness, save for a spotlight radiating upwards from behind drummer Nick Jago. All that is visible for the first few songs are three shadowy figures in their now trademark black T-shirts, bouffant hair and sideburns, nicely complimenting the menace of their growling basslines and downright dirty guitar licks. It’s little wonder they prefer the intimacy of smaller club gigs, which amply accommodate their rich guitar squall and moody, atmospheric nonchalance, something which must get lost on a mid-day festival stage.

Recent singles Love Burns and the Spirit in the Sky stompathon Spread Your Love are aired early on but there are more than enough good songs to keep the momentum going for the ninety minutes set, many sounding better than on record. Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll – which sets the kids pogoing ecstatically and draws the set to a suitably noisy close – makes the album’s version sound pretty thin. The two (count ’em) encores include one of the album’s standout tracks Awake and an anthemic newie, Down Here.

It’s futile to try and describe BRMC without mentioning The Jesus & Mary Chain, so let’s just bring it on. Okay, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club not only sound like the Mary Chain, they have the style and attitude close enough to get the Reid brothers consulting their lawyers. But before you dismiss BRMC as a bunch of revivalist copycats; consider this: the Jesus & Mary Chain were indeed a great band, but they are (a) no longer great and (b) no longer together. Perhaps you enjoy sitting in your bedroom listening to Psychocandy, reminiscing about the old days. I know what I’d rather be doing.


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