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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Hedon, Zwolle
(25/08/10)Lost in the Netherlands again… Somehow I can’t stop wondering why exactly BRMC keep playing these tiny towns in the Netherlands, towns that nobody apart from the Dutch population have possibly ever heard of.And Zwolle is one of these pretty little towns that have a cute, old market in their middle and where the shops and also cafés close at 6 pm. The venue, which from the outside could be mistaken for a building hosting a public swimming pool, turns out to be the cultural centre of this Dutch town and holds a capacity of approximately 500 people. Therefore, one could assume that this is going to be a very cosy show.We’re not really surprised that there is almost nothing going on in front of the venue even half an hour before doors are supposed to open, but on entering it becomes obvious why: the hall is dinky to the greatest degree, it’s so small that the furthest you can get away from the stage might be ten steps, so you’ll be able to feel close to the stage even when you’re standing in the doorway. How exquisite can a show get, huh?Luckily, we’re spared the performance of a boring support band this time and get straight to the real thing: the lady and the two gentlemen enter at about 9.30 pm and the show begins. Standing in the front row we can catch a glimpse of the set list taped to the floor and can’t believe our eyes. But shortly after that we’re getting convinced that there’s nothing wrong with them at all. For the set starts with Evol indeed and blows us away as most of us have never heard this song played live before. The endless reminders to please play this song and a certain someone’s final remark on the night before towards Peter might have resulted in this, so we’re especially happy to be offered this song as an opener tonight.Not wearing his hooded cloak this time, Robert comes across less tense than the night before, which was the first show during which his dad was not sitting at the soundboard. From an outsider’s perspective it seems as if playing shows is actually doing him good, distracting him, giving him an opportunity of at least a bit of elation, letting go of some of his frustration and sadness.After this first highlight the band continue their set with the by now obligatory second and third songs Mama Taught Me Better and Red Eyes and Tears, luckily, as we all have become so used to, with the beautiful reprise in the end. I can’t help but feel that this song isn’t complete with this additional part, so hearing it being played live like that always makes myself and as far as I know some other people very happy.Unfortunately, the sound turns out to be pretty bad. You can’t really understand Peter’s vocals standing on the left side, same goes for Rob’s vocals on the other side of the room, sometimes you can’t hear Peter’s guitar, and so on. If we weren’t thinking about the tragic circumstances of this leg of the tour anyway, it would now, at the latest, become apparent that Michael is missing. Allen, who is usually the engineer in charge of the sound on stage, has taken Michael’s place at the soundboard, so we are not sure who’s responsible for the sound on stage tonight, but I suppose that you can find one possible source of the technical problems there. This is not about blaming anyone, but it is not surprising that issues like that arise when a good team is torn apart and a stranger has to fill in for Papa Been. During Ain’t No Easy Way there’s some problem with Pete’s harmonica and at the end of the song he gets so frustrated, possibly about things not working out and realizing that Michael’s missing, he smashes his guitar against the microphone stand, which, as a result, unfortunately hits a friend of mine. However, things tend to get better again throughout the rest of the show.As we reach the acoustic set there’s one of those heart-throbbing moments again. Robert starts playing a song that at least I have never heard before and so, from what I can pick up from the lyrics (“You run and you run and you run and never stop / You work and you work and you work until you drop”) I get the impression that this might be a new song, having been written just recently. In the end I simply turn out to be ignorant of the fact that this is a song by his dad Robert is playing, The Call’s You Run. The effect, however, remains the same. Only thinking about how he is standing there, the bright stage light surrounding him almost halo-like, sharing his love and pain with us by reciting this song is on the one hand almost impossible to bear, but on the other hand it has such a profound effect of feeling touched and connected I would never want to miss this experience.So we’re being left there to stomach this, a little bit out of this world, feeling hit by something one probably can’t really describe with words, and Peter has to help us out a bit to get back to planet earth, reminding us of the good old times by a presentation of Complicated Situation. Like the day before, Robert joins Peter in his second acoustic song again, sneaking back on stage and adding harmonies.After this there’s a short moment of communication, in which Robert initially wants to start off with the next song on the playlist. Peter has something else on his mind, though, so he beckons to Leah and Robert, something like “Follow me” and off they go playing Screaming Gun. In spite of first rejoicing in how special this is, this is also the moment when the magic spell is broken. Let me tell you why.All of a sudden there’s this chick entering Peter’s side of the stage starting off with a, at least in my humble opinion, ridiculous wannabe-pole dance, almost raping one of the boxes, if I may be so bold as to borrow that expression from one of my friends. After some time she is politely asked to get off stage again and totally unimpressed by this fruitless attempt to catch their attention (there’s only a short glance and a smirk), the band just continue through the song and really can’t be bothered.Apart from this rather eccentric aberration there’s some decent audience reaction going on. All in all the Zwolle crowd is surprisingly into it, surprisingly because, let’s be honest, we’re lost somewhere in the Netherlands, sorry if I sound repetitive, in a tiny venue in a pretty town that has approximately as many inhabitants as the hicksville I come from. But do the people who came here tonight care about that? No, Sir! The sequence of Conscience Killer, Sixbarrel Shotgun and Spread Your Love brings about a sweaty sheen to the crowd’s faces. It actually results in such a vigorous mood that, when the song is actually supposed to be over, Peter gives his comrades a sign again and the song carries on, a mighty, sultry, lush jam that, if I were to decide, could continue all night long. But, let’s face it, most of the time the good things have to end early. So band and crowd reach the climax together and after the compulsory short absence the band returns for another round of pure BRMC bliss, presenting a guitar/bass/drum firework of Shadow’s Keeper, Robert reaching out to the crowd at the edge of the stage now and again.Possibly knowing that there can be no better ending of a show than that of playing the beautiful interpretation of Open Invitation we’re confronted with exactly that, leaving us all with a warm, fuzzy feeling.That’s what this band does to you. In such a short span of “only” two hours they educe every possible feeling from you and most of the crowd can’t help it. They leave you there, jaw dropped, part of you screaming for a break, part of you simply wanting more.While some might have doubted that pulling off these shows could not be the right thing, that the sad death of Michael could steal their energy, their vibe, their spirit, I have to disagree. There’s nothing lacking at these shows. And while others, myself included, might hide away in such situations as these, it’s obvious that playing shows is a means of helping them heal, turning their sorrow into energy to use for the one thing that unites them, their audience, and the one thing they seem to live for. Music.