Black Rebel Motorcycle Club kicked off its world tour Friday night in Sacramento with the elegant wall of fuzz that is “War Machine,” the heady, droningtrack from the band’s fifth and latest studio album, Beat the Devil’sTattoo.
And as the small, sold-out Harlow’s Night Club crowd twisted and turned in frenzy,the somber but frenetic mood of the night was set before the song was done.
The trio, led by singer Robert Levon Been, spent ample time during the blistering two-hour set playing tunes from the new album.
Tracks like the raucous “Mama Taught Me Better” and “The Toll,” a moody country-tinged ballad, led to raised beers and high-fives. The album’s title song, with its poetic chant and melody that gives way to a drum stomp, upped the pace from there.
As the grinding bass line and forlorn hook of “Aya” rang out, it became evident that B.R.M.C. have come full-circle. They’ve refined the angry psych-rock of their self-titled debut album; magnified the bluesy folk of Howl; distilled the grit of Baby 81 and, more importantly, stepped back a bit. They allowed their melodies to wander, while keeping the gothic fuzz, but adding an element of sincerity and, well, joy.
Okay, so joy might be the wrong word, considering that the band barely smiled or talked all night. But through carefully crafted songs, impeccable timing, rich and mysterious guitar riffs, bone-jarring drum stomps, and Been’s mischievous voice — paired with Peter Hays’ gruff tone — the band created an energy that was unmistakably exciting. And, despite outward appearances, it was clear that they were having a hell of a lot of fun.
So it didn’t matter much when Been forgot some words to “The Line,” because soon the audience was screaming along to “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll” and then weaving in a trance-like state to the psychedelic noisefest of “Evol.”
Near the end of the set, Been finally addressed the audience. His face softened into a grin (or maybe a sneer) as he said it felt good to get out of the studio and play their new songs in front of a live audience. “Thank you,” he added, genuinely.
Then he and Hayes played a rendition of”Open Invitation” that was so eerie and sad it made you want to rip your heart out and throw it against the goddamn wall.