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Review1

(Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Brixton Academy, London, 11/12/2010)A review in five actsPrologueIt’s not as if you needed an excuse to go to London, but somehow people keep asking you “Oh, you’re going to London? What for?” and if your answer is “To attend my favourite band’s 1000th show.” that definitely has a more glorious ring to it than simply saying “Christmas shopping”. Oh yes, it has.Trying to prevent the upcoming of those stupid groupie comments, which stick to you like glue if you simply love seeing fabulous shows of the same band (yes, it’s this band again for heaven’s sake) I won’t be telling you how many shows I’ve already seen this year. Let me put it this way: many. However, going to this show most definitely feels special, because London + BRMC promises to be a dreadly delightful combination. And if it’s (London + BRMC) x show #1000 there’s an important factor added to this equation, which results in the following: For the people about to experience it it’s a state of mind which could be described as ecstasizing.Brixton’s O2 Academy (no product placement intended) is the venue of this event and, my dear readers, it’s not called O2 Academy for nothing. Nooo... actually, the company running/sponsoring this venue feels like they need to promote their products by forcing a two-class division upon their paying customers. Yes, this is modern Britain. Funnily enough, tonight’s promotion campain deluxe is connected to one of the British people’s supposedly favourite part-time activities. There is nothing less than a ‘priority queue’ for customers of said telephone company, ‘priority queue’ meaning that people waiting in this queue will be let in earlier than those poor souls standing in the other one. As we’re indeed about to benefit from this arrangement we’re not feeling too revolutionary tonight, but I’m still wondering how people who have paid the same price as everyone can accept that. What or rather who tops this whole business off is that very original London guy, who plays top dog for his watching audience, feeling ever so important by asking every single person joining the ‘priority queue’ “Have you got an O2 phone, madam/sir?”. If you’re about to attend another show at this venue, let me give you some advice teeming with irony: nobody ever actually checked my phone...The venue turns out to be a bit too large for my taste and especially for my taste when it comes to BRMC shows. The stage is quite wide and the fact that the monitors and other equipment aren’t even put into the corners makes it appear as if this is actually intended to make the band feel a bit more comfortable.London quintet The Duke Spirit are support for tonight and are on at about 7.30 pm, playing for about half an hour. Maybe it’s because of them only playing one known song followed by a whole bunch of new ones, supposedly being featured on a new album, but apart from one guy who feels like telling the whole audience what he’d like to do with singer Leila “all night long”, nobody’s temperature seems to have risen too much in the icy cold venue. Only when the lights are switched off and Soulsaver’s “Revival” resounds through the hall, announcing the beginning of the show and fitting perfectly, I first feel like taking my coat off.Act I: Exposition (BRMC)The band seem to be still feeling cold as well, Peter and Robert entering the stage in their notorious leather jackets, but warming up everybody’s heart by playing Love Burns as their first song tonight. From where I’m standing the crowd appears to be feeling it from the start, being into it from this very first song on, ‘it’ being the almost festive mood of this special night. There’s only one thing that taints this mood to some degree and this is the attendence of an almost ridiculous amount of photographers in this huge gap between stage and audience. While this might be a good sign for the band, I assume that the natural feel of a BRMC show, which usually includes a lot of close ups of Robert with the audience, somewhat gets lost. There’s no way of him sitting down on the monitor tonight and singing directly to his audience, which I think is too bad. All the same, the second song is Red Eyes and Tears and this is the point where I start to wonder.Knowing that BRMC are anything but lame or boring and rather have something special up their sleeves than playing a bog-standard show, I suppose everyone has been wondering about possible specialties concerning the set list. So, playing song number one and two of their debut in a row I am quite intrigued by the possibility of them playing the whole album in a row (and maybe continuing with the other four?). However, after the third song this night, a rowdy Punk Song, another supportive fact for my thesis, Robert solves the mystery. He tells the audience that they originally felt like playing everything, but that there is not enough time. (I guess we can thank that bloody venue for that again...) Thus, he continues, they decided on playing not all of their songs, but a lot, and, here comes the absolutely special part, in the order in which these songs came to them. Well, if the lady and the two gentlemen prefer a chronological approach tonight, so be it! Additionally, the idea of the songs coming to them than rather them writing the songs is an idea that strikes me, as if these songs had always existed, wafting around before, just waiting for the right moment to be picked up by the right person and be played.At some point in this first act there are people standing on Peter’s side of the stage all of a sudden and I realize that the things that were given away before the show must have been vouchers to make you stand on stage for a couple of songs, so there is always a bunch of people standing in the backround of the stage, clearly spellbound, happy and fascinated by being given the chance to see their band performing from such a close distance.Following chronology the next song is Spread Your Love, another audience-all-time favourite, nowadays being extended by a steamy additional, bluesy, the girls wanting to shake their bum part. And with this ends Act I.Act II: Escalation (Take Them On, On Your Own)We’re now entering the slightly darker realms of album #2, beginning with Six Barrel Shotgun, another representative of BRMC’s category of somewhat revised songs that plainly turn out to be better live whereas listening to the original recording they now seem to be lacking something. Up next is a supreme surprise in form of We’re All In Love, which I don’t think I’ve heard live ever since my very first BRMC show in 2003 and which possibly turns out to be a treat for a lot of people, who are able to appreciate it.Finally, and as I have hoped ever since Robert explained tonight’s concept of the setlist, we get to hear the first notes of Heart + Soul, the one song that I have been missing so very much on this tour. This song is everything again tonight: desperate, torn, loud, tender, a beautiful beast of a song that truly escalates in a most climactic way, demanding everything from the three musicians on stage. So while this appears to be one of the first highlights of this show, the band is toning it down a bit by entering Act III.Act III: Turning Point (Howl)Devil’s Waitin’ is another gem in this cold December night’s collection. Peter starts this song on his own and is later on joined by Robert, who comes back on stage to add harmonies to Peter’s performance. While we were still being brought through the almost ear-deafening, beautiful noise of Heart + Soul only two minutes ago, Peter has a knack of now, all of a sudden, taking us back down again and bewitching us only by accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar. Apparently, it’s these mood changes and the competence of estimating the arc of suspense that make a BRMC show what they are to some degree.It’s getting jollier again with the next song, which is an acoustic interpretation of Shuffle Your Feet with Leah not sitting down at her drum kit, but playing the tambourine and joining Robert at his mic in singing. The picture displayed here is so harmonious that I would wish for Leah leaving her drum kit at the back of the stage more often, if only that wouldn’t hinder her from presenting her drumming skills...Ain’t No Easy Way, a long-established component of almost every set list laying on the right kind of fun for the audience, is another ‘filler’ before we are once more ensnared in awe. For it is nothing less than Weight of the World that comes up next, one of the few songs I have repeatedly tried to shout at Robert whenever he went asking the audience what they wanted to hear. And tonight my wish of hearing this song live finally comes true.Act IV: Retarding Momentum (Baby 81)The beginning of the following song, Took Out A Loan, also announces the beginning of Act IV, our retarding momentum by means of feasting on a dense vapour of pure Rock ‘n’ Roll. The sequence of Took Out A Loan, Berlin and Weapon Of Choice turns out to be a torrid threesome that doesn’t leave a single armpit dry.Wondering what will be up next the audience is again addressed by Robert, who seems to be talking his head off tonight, at least when you compare it with the usual amount of words uttered on stage during a regular show. They should keep this up, really. This time he communicates that he wants to dedicate the next song, like everything they do, to his late father Michael Been, “who we lost on this tour”. Furthermore he projects an image of Michael in our mind by saying that he’s sure he’s with us tonight and if he actually were in person, he’d be standing behind us all, with a big fat grin on his face. There’s a moment when last summer’s sadness resurfaces to Robert and to those of us who felt with the band back then, but he puts on a brave face and introduces us to Tom Ferrier, Michael’s old bandmate from The Call. He’s come to join the band playing the guitar on stage tonight to perform Windows. So Robert sits down at the piano and off they go. This tribute to Michael is a truly beautiful highlight of this show, on the one hand as seeing these four people interacting on stage is completely cute, Leah, Peter and Tom smiling at each other a lot and totally feeling it, on the other hand because once more we get the feeling that Michael certainly is here with us in London this moment. Their saying goodnight and leaving stage after this is totally unnecessary, however, as we all know that there is at least one act to go...Act V: Denouement (Beat The Devil’s Tattoo)Before we get to enjoy songs of the latest record there are some more singularities lying ahead of us, though. After the short break Robert enters the stage on his own again, telling the audience that they can request a song now, because so far the band has been making all the decisions. A very democratic approach that results in him starting to play a cover of Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, being all smiles and smirks. At this point I’m laughing my ass off, actually, as this combination is just so bloody funny, especially when he delves into “That’s all they really waahaaaant, just fuuuuun”. In the middle of the song he breaks up anyhow, as he says he doesn’t know the rest of the song, and starts playing Dirty Old Town instead, a song that makes almost the whole hall sing along.While we’re right at it with covering songs, there’s yet another one to come, this time a cover of “Wild One”, which was originally performed by Johnny O’Keefe and also by Iggy Pop in the 80s. However, what is even more striking is the fact that the song is introduced by Robert explaining that one of their friends initially wanted to be here and join them on stage tonight, but who unfortunately couldn’t so that he has sent us a message instead. The next thing we get to hear then is Iggy Pop’s voice telling us how sorry he is that he can’t be with us tonight and who pays tribute to Michael Been. Another interesting aspect about this is the band’s history with this song. Shortly after Michael had died Robert played this song on acoustic guitar at some airport, making a little girl dance to the music. Luckily this was filmed and if you haven’t seen this most endearing video yet, check it out here:YoutubeAfter this short interlude we realize that the end of this gig has to be near, but not before we experience the pleasure of hearing a sequence of the recent album’s title track Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, Bad Blood, Half State, Conscience Killer, which finally lets Robert jump off the stage and get close to the crowd, and Shadow’s Keeper. Another peak in this show is definitely Half State, which threatens to rip the first rows off, because the sound, a noisy, yet beautiful wall of guitars and immense drums, hits you like a hammer. Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a break to rest your hurting muscles, as the next piece, shortly introduced by Robert as the last song, Shadow’s Keeper, heads out into exactly the same direction.This is the cathartic moment anyone at any BRMC show has possibly felt, the moment when you feel like you and the music are becoming one, the kick that a lot of people, who I have come to know throughout the three years, would describe as the kick that makes them addicted to BRMC live shows. I think I can speak for a lot of people present that night when I say that this music sends you on a trip and makes you an addict with no hope of soon recovery.EpilogueShadow’s Keeper being the last song is not entirely true, though, as the last notes of the song blend into the beginning of the most heart-warming, tender, beautiful Open Invitation. Having heard this song played as an outro on the occasion of several shows now, I can’t help but feel as if this song was wrapping you up in a warm blanket, like a goodbye hug that caresses you and leaves you with a mixture of feeling both sorry that the show is finally over and still being totally satisfied. Thus, a perfect choice for an outro. Furthermore, the line “And we may never be here again” repeatedly points out the evanescence of everybody and everything and gives you the feeling of having done exactly the right thing by coming all the way to London to join into this celebration tonight, as life is simply short, vulnerable and you should possibly live every day of you life as if it were the last. Thus, this celebration of 1000 shows of luscious Rock ‘n’ Roll comes to an end and I can’t help it but hope for at least another 1000 to come.

BRMC 1K or: Celebrating 1000 shows of luscious Rock n Roll