Show Review

Brian Ahnmark

The performance was nothing short of a visual and aural display of a band revitalized.

It's not explicitly spelled out, but Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is currently touring as a rekindled brotherhood – thanks in large part to the addition of a sister.

Founding members and longtime songwriting cohorts Robert Levon Been (bass/vocals) and Peter Hayes (guitar/vocals) added a monster to the mix when they stole tub-thumper Leah Shapiro from the Raveonettes, a move that by all accounts saved the band. The trio damn near burned down the Newport Music Hall in Columbus on March 30, supporting their smoldering new album, Beat the Devil's Tattoo.

The performance was nothing short of a visual and aural display of a band revitalized. The perpetually gloomy Been and Hayes even (gasp!) smiled on occasion and warmly thanked the Columbus crowd for its support over the years.

New material inspired the two-hour, 21-song, career-spanning set. The band opened with “War Machine” and “Mama Taught Me Better” from Tattoo, then delved back to their eponymous debut album with a crowd-pleasing, extended riff on “Red Eyes and Tears.” But the real stick of dynamite was the goosebump-inducing title track from Tattoo, which the band tore into with snarling gusto. Been donned an acoustic guitar to duel with Hayes, while Shapiro maintained a thunderous cadence for the death march.

The crowd reacted wildly to “Berlin” and “Weapon of Choice” from Baby 81, before Been pulled the rug out with one of the band's patented about-faces, performing a gorgeous rendition of Tattoo b-side “Annabel Lee.” The hushed lull didn't last, however, as Hayes' wicked slide guitar introduced a definitive “Ain't No Easy Way.”

The band fed the resulting frenzy with “Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N' Roll?” their best-known song and the tune that put them on the popular music map. It was clearly a split-second setlist call, with Hayes whispering to Been and Shapiro beforehand as if to suggest a change in plans. Visibly agitated, Been rolled his eyes heavenward and muttered something sarcastic about “growth” – before his fuzz bass whipped the crowd into submission. His apparent frustration didn't affect the performance or the gracious response.

The band briefly left the stage, but not for an encore break; Been and Hayes returned to play one solo acoustic song apiece. Been selected Bob Dylan's “Visions of Johanna” for his showcase, and Hayes followed with a tender take on “The Toll” from Tattoo.

Before the Newport could take on a coffeehouse feel, BRMC closed the main set with the murderer's row of “Shuffle Your Feet,” “Conscience Killer,” “Six-Barrel Shotgun” and “Spread Your Love.” This combination touched on four different albums, a fitting and fiery nutshell of the band.

A three-song encore climaxed with a moving interpretation of “Open Invitation,” the hidden closing gem from 2005's Howl. At the Newport, the song transformed from a squeeze box dirge to a nimble bass-led spiritual, almost classical in beauty.

Setlist
War Machine
Mama Taught Me Better
Red Eyes and Tears
Bad Blood
Beat the Devil's Tattoo
Love Burns
Berlin
Weapon of Choice
Annabel Lee
Aya
Ain't No Easy Way
Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N' Roll?
Visions of Johanna
The Toll
Shuffle Your Feet
Conscience Killer
Six-Barrel Shotgun
Spread Your Love
666 Conducer
Shadow's Keeper
Open Invitation