ALARM, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Hit the UK

Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubIt turns out that Nottingham is not the historical home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men (though its residents couldn’t remember their actual origins). But what it lacks in men in tights it makes up with Selectadisc, far and away the best independent record store I visited during a recent journey to the United Kingdom.

After a good hour or so of record hunting, my UK tour guides and I made it up to Rock City to see two American acts — California’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Texas’ artsy pyche rockers The Black Angels.

The multi-roomed Rock City is the only sizable music venue in the Midlands, and by the time we arrived, the club was packed to the gills with rockers and college kids alike. The Black Angels filled the room with a rock sound akin to the earthiness of Black Mountain or a less urban Velvet Underground (from whom they have unabashedly pilfered their name and their logo). The six-piece band’s sound has developed in leaps and bounds since the last time I saw them over a year ago at The Empty Bottle in Chicago.

In the long interlude between when the Angels left the stage and BRMC began, I learned a few differences between UK and US concerts. They are as follows:

1. If you order a cocktail at the bar, expect it to come in a Dixie cup with no ice and almost as little alcohol.
2. It is not considered dangerous to clog up all stairways and fire exits (of course, the UK never experienced the Great White tragedy), making it even harder to get to said bar for a refill. I recommend sticking to beer (Red Stripe in this case) or drink at home if you are so inclined.

Finally, the gratuitous break time was over, and the evening’s headliners went on.

It is easy to see why Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is popular in the UK. Bassist Peter Hayes has hair like Mark Bolan, and the group dons affected Beatles accents while playing Rolling Stones-inspired rock. But while much of the crowd lapped them up, it didn’t take much time at all for my attention to waver. Nearly every song kept the same mid-tempo pacing, save for popular single “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

The atmosphere, with clouds of smoke, flashy lights, and monogrammed BRMC flags, was more appropriate for a Bon Jovi concert than for any indie band. Many of their Howl-era country-themed tunes sounded like lackluster Tom Petty covers. And though the stage show was energetic and the band at least seemed sincere, at the end of the day, I am still waiting for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to live up to their awesome moniker.

– Jamie Ludwig

Photo credit: Jamie Ludwig