Black Rebel Motorcycle Club review – garage rockers stuck in third gear

O2 Academy, Glasgow
The now-veteran band could do with truncating their setlist – there’s not enough rebellious spirit to power two hours of songs

With a thunderclap of reverb, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club surface through a sea of dry ice to roll out Spook’s opening riff. From their recent eighth album, Wrong Creatures, it’s a garage-rock foot-stomper with anthemic ambitions that sets a steady pace for this rarely spontaneous evening. “I’m waiting on a vision, I’m waiting on the fall of this dead song city,” sneer co-front men Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes, with ennui but little urgency.

Rousing favourites such as Beat the Devil’s Tattoo and buzzing, bluesy Ain’t No Easy Way come early in a bloated set that spans the San Francisco band’s 20 years in business. The latter sees the first plastic pint glass go flying, but the two hours that follow, via deeply repetitive new singles such as Question of Faith, sit comfortably in third gear. Driven by Leah Shapiro’s scrupulous drumming, the production is efficient and well oiled. It’s also the second time in nine months that the BRMC van has pulled in to Glasgow, and it shows: the Academy’s Monday night crowd is warm but far from rapturous. These are anthems powered by muscle memory rather than momentum, and no one’s here to be converted.

An acoustic interlude – of an older track Fault Line and a stripped-back version of Wrong Creatures’ Echo – receives the most organic clap-along of the night, but it’s almost curfew before a run of hits from the band’s 2001 debut truly light up the room. Grungy epic Spread Your Love sets a torch to a re-energised audience and Whatever Happened to My Rock’n’Roll (Punk Song) has become a well-mannered but welcome closer. What it lacks in revolutionary spirit it makes up for in heart, as Been offers a sincere thanks to “the people who have kept us alive” and teases the song’s hook as if it’s from the band’s freshest single. Still, now their rebellion has become a weary victory lap, a set half as long could prove twice as electric.


Katie Hawthorne

The GuardianTramp

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