Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with thenewno2 at Rialto Theatre, Thursday, May 30

I'm deeply infatuated with the music of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Their live performances showcase the essence of a great rock 'n' roll show to such a ridiculous degree, I have felt the need to see them nine times—all over the western U.S.—in the past decade. I'm not alone. See them once, and you'll be hooked. BRMC doesn't have half-assed fans, and the Tucson show underscored this point.

They opened with a heartfelt cover of the Call's "Let the Day Begin," a jubilant, hopeful anthem. This song, as well as handful of original tracks on BRMC's new album, Specter at the Feast, were dedicated to the Call's Michael Been, the late father of bass player, guitar player and vocalist extraordinaire Robert Levon Been.

Robert's bass playing is a defining feature of the BRMC sound. His rhythm builds steadily and bursts into an explosion of beautiful noise, acting at times as a dueling lead guitar. Peter Hayes is the quintessential rough-edged lead guitarist, never showboating and always intense. Both have distinct, rich vocals, with lyrics emphasizing some of life's darker themes. Leah Shapiro is an unwavering force behind the drum kit, steady and solid.

The set list pulled from their earlier albums, with tracks such as "Red Eyes and Tears," "Love Burns," "Six Barrel Shotgun" and "Spread Your Love." The highlights included two acoustic numbers from the incredible album Howl; Robert soloed on piano with a particularly gripping version of "Promise," and Peter played acoustic guitar and harmonica for the stripped-down, poignant "Complicated Situation." Three personal favorites from the new album appeared on the set list; the aching tribute "Lullaby," the driving "Funny Games" and the crowning achievement of their musical career, "Sell It." The show was a spectacular ride through their entire catalog.

Opening act thenewno2 is a 6-piece from London featuring loads of guitar, synths and killer sampling. Vocalist Dhani Harrison's voice ranged from the soaring, ferocious quality of Faith No More's Mike Patton to the grittiness of Dead Confederate's Hardy Morris. Wavering between the two extremes served him well in the various capacities the complex arrangements required. Layers of swirling guitar, progressive time signatures from the fantastic rhythm section, the dense fog of electronica undertones, and four-part harmonies made their set one to remember.


More by Mel Mason


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