Live Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, House of Blues Anaheim, March 16, 2010

Who says progress is good?

Inventions of the digital age — internet, mobile phones and hybrid vehicles — certainly make living more convenient, but does any of it mean our lives are better?  Do you really need that status update from your Uncle Joey in Fairbanks, AK?  To have the office call you when you’re taking in a vista at the Grand Canyon?  To know the government can track you into a a port-a-john at Lollapalooza via the GPS in your phone?

Instead, let’s consider regression.

Think back to a time before Goldman Sachs ran the economy, when Twitter was something dirty you tried to do to your girlfriend under the dining room table at dinner, and when Michael Jackson was still black.

If you wanted to hear new music, you listened to one of three radio stations or risked going into that shady-looking independent record store to hazard a conversation with that creepy guy behind the counter who had that funny, skunky-but-sweet odor you wouldn’t learn about until high school, which sort of reminded you of Uncle Joey from Fairbanks, AK

Weren’t things better then?

Judging by their set Tuesday night at the House of Blues in Anaheim, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club probably thinks so.

BRMC live at HOB Anaheim - photo by the author

For a band that’s built a career by wearing their influences on their sleeves, BRMC has notably improved over the last decade by increasingly boiling their music down to its most basic elements: guitar, bass, drums and voice.  While they were quickly tarnished by the critics with (numerous, but mostly favorable) Velvet Underground and Jesus & Mary Chain comparisons upon the release of their debut, BRMC has nevertheless avoided charting a course set for originality.  Which is to their credit, as the results have almost always been impressive, and quite honestly, given the cluttered, post-internet music landscape, refreshing.

If J&MC and Velvet Underground taught us anything, it was that it was perfectly fine to not really know how to play your instruments as long as you looked bored, acted cool, had bad hair and stole liberally from those before you.  Drugs also helped.  BRMC has since taught us that doing that and being adept musicians are not mutually exclusive.  Having shed some of their shoegaze and psychedelic tendencies over the years, they have arrived at a place where — quite simply — they rock.  They hard, they rock good and they rock often.  And with every release, they seem to do fulfill that formula by doing more with less.

Such was the case Tuesday night, where for nearly two hours they demonstrated cuts from their freshly baked 2010 release, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, and plundered their own vaults for a showing of some serious stomping, rootsy, garagey, no-frills rock ‘n’ fucking roll.

BRMC quite simply killed it with “Ain’t No Easy Way Out,” “Six Barrel Shotgun” and the title track to their latest longplayer.  They found moments for quiet reflection as well, with bassist Robert Levon Beet and guitarist Peter Hayes taking solo turns during a mini-acoustic breather partway through the set, but only long enough for the crowd to adjust themselves before the pummeling began anew.

Their encore saw them level those gathered with “Shadow’s Keeper” and a matching bombastic light show — which could have triggered epilepsy in event the least photo-sensitive audience members had they not been subject to the ninety minute-plus raucous display that had come beforehand.  Even a drunken audience member who was obnoxiously shouting to posses Peter’s nuts, and demanding he remove his pants for that purpose, was not enough to derail what as ultimately a “had to be there” performance before a packed house.

Nine years after their first (stateside) release, BRMC’s initial effort is now unquestionably considered a bonafide classic.  And there’s no reason the same won’t be said for the rest of their catalogue, providing they stay away from such modern inventions as Autotune, electric keyboards and mainstream popularity.

Progress be damned.

Truffle Jones filed this report from his trailer on the set of Hardcastle and McCormick: The Movie

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