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BRMC Cologne 2013

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Live music hall Cologne

(09/04/2013)As much as I love travelling to my favourite places to see my favourite band, funnily enough it’s mostly the gigs in the not-so-grand cities that turn out to be the ones to be outstanding. London and Amsterdam of course were unique shows with their own highlights, in fabulous venues and with enthusiastic audiences. Luxembourg’s very cosy and snug Den Atelier proved to be a contrast to the definitely larger Paradiso and the huge Brixton Academy, but hosted a rather reserved audience. This time around, however, Cologne of all places is the one that truly does it for me and, as it seems, also for BRMC.Today we have an acoustic set followed by a signing session for starters. The expectations and ideas about seeing this band perform an acoustic set in a branch of one of the two largest media retailing companies in Germany are somewhat mixed, for obvious reasons. For non-Germans, it’s like this: Imagine an HMV store, subtract a good deal of stylishness and add the fact that you can also buy vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and everything for your computer here and you’ll get the idea. A rather strange surrounding for a rock band from California, especially for this one, and somehow I can’t help but find this surreal. In the end it turns out to be alright though, because as soon as Robert and Peter start their acoustic set on the small stage surrounded by about a hundred fans the setting doesn’t really matter anymore. They play a small set of older and newer songs, acoustic versions of Let The Day Begin, Weight Of The World, Love Burns, Lullaby, Shuffle Your Feet, Complicated Situation and Fault Line and naturally cast their spell over the audience and it’s a real treat for every fan. The only thing that remains a bit unsettling is the large screen behind the stage that displays the band’s likeness in such an overdone size that Robert asks whether it could be turned off because it’s “a bit too much”. The degree of unpretentiousness with this band, on the other hand, isn’t.Having tasted blood and wanting more the flock of followers starts on their way to Cologne’s Live Music Hall. Like on the other European-mainland gigs of this tour Transfer from San Diego are opening tonight and with their awesome performance they really set the tone for what’s to come. With a great opening band time goes by so quickly and before you know it the lights are turned down again and the last show of this tour starts. Tonight’s first song is Let The Day Begin and even though some might have preferred Fire Walker in this spot of the set on this tour, as it certainly has its purpose as an opener with its luring attitude, greeting the audience with this Call cover ups the tempo right from the beginning. You hardly have time to catch your breath while being beaten round the head with the following songs of Rival, Red Eyes and Tears, Hate the Taste, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, Punk Song, Ain’t No Easy Way, and Berlin until the set is toned down a bit with 666 Conducer. It is no surprise that the older songs are perceived more enthusiastically as people know them better. At this point of the tour with the album being out for a couple of weeks already though, the reactions to Rival for example are warmer than they used to be in Amsterdam or London. We finally get a bit of a pause from freaking out and get to experience the rather tender shades of BRMC’s repertoire with the heartfelt Returning and the two acoustics Mercy and Devil’s Waiting. Fire Walker is up next and its nature is paid tribute after this acoustic breaking point in the set as it does a wonderful job of helping the audience to refocus their attention on the denser guitar sounds again.When Robert takes a seat at the piano it’s quite certain that there’s something special coming up and hearing the first chords of Windows is the approval that it’s a rarity we’re about to experience. What happens after that is hard to explain in words. At some point the penny drops and all restraint is forgotten. The first couple of rows at least are found in a state of rapture, dancing, jumping, mashing, singing along, being totally into it. The band seem to sense it and shift up another gear. Conscience Killer and Teenage Disease in a row are almost too much to bear, and the suspense rises even more with two favourites of the audience, Stop and Love Burns. Lullaby is the small, most wondrous and beautiful island of calm in between before we reach the climax of the set. In Like The Rose and White Palms are two more rarities that are highly appreciated by the connoisseurs, before Funny Games, another new song off Specter at the Feast, is followed by the ultimate BRMC live song, Six Barrel Shotgun. This song is a rush. The guitars and drums grab you tightly and hit you in the face, finally finishing you off when the slower, so very lusty bass-driven build-up part that you only get in the live version finally explodes into “Save yourself cause I need some stimulation, baby!”. The sensation is heightened by a light show including stroboscobes that almost force you to close your eyes and concentrate on the music washing over you, only perceiving the band as dark shadows swirling over the stage in a flicker of light. If you don’t appreciate a BRMC performance after experiencing this song live, you never will.When Robert tells the German crowd between songs that he wouldn’t want to kiss our asses but that the German shows were the greatest you get the confirmation that tonight the chemistry between band and audience is exceptional and also that the band don’t really feel like wanting to end the tour tonight already.Spread Your Love is the killer tune that leaves us open-mouthed when the band finally takes their first leave for the break before the encore. Unfortunately there is no surprise to be expected here, as the encore songs on this tour have been the same every night, but who would dare to complain after getting 24 (!) diverse songs already? And it’s not as if Sell It or Lose Yourself weren’t two more highlights to enjoy. Sell It follows in the steps of Six Barrel Shotgun by basically being an ecstatic ride that should never end and Lose Yourself, just like on the new album, gracefully closes the chapter of this European tour. We are almost desperately trying to cling to the moment, capturing it forever, never wanting it to stop, but we can’t help waking up from the dream and getting back to reality again when the overhead lighting is almost brutally turned on and grim security is shoving us out.After two and a half hours of play time it’s definitely late and lots of people need to hurry back home as it’s a Tuesday night. There’s a tendency of perseverance in a smaller group of about fifty people though, sensing that this might not have been it, that there is some added time coming up. So after already playing an instore gig in the afternoon and after playing two and a half hours of a bombastic show Robert still hasn’t had enough and joins the more persistent fans, playing an acoustic encore in the small yard of the venue. Sympathetic Noose, Rifles, Visions of Johanna and The Knife are the ones he endows his audience with. He can only be stopped when he is told that some neighbours seem to be complaining, even though nobody can really imagine where these supposed neighbours actually could be in this bleak and derelict industrial part of Cologne. When finally the staff start getting pissed because they want to shut the venue down the magic is stopped and Robert instead takes some more time to talk to fans and endure photo sessions and exorbitant hugging. Only the reminder that he has to catch a plane home soon seems to finally enable him to let go of this last night of the tour.As always we try and we try but we can’t get enough. Germany wants to have this band back. Soon.