While The Brian Jonestown Massacre finally consummated their love affair with oblivion before a deflating comeback, and The Dandy Warhols never quite shake the stench of anticlimax from their post-Bohemian output, neo-psych cohorts Black Rebel Motorcycle Club resolved to be the grindstone kids. Revelling in the gypsy life while maintaining a ‘necessary evil’ attitude towards all matters pecuniary, core members Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been resigned themselves to the vicissitudes of the music world, while promoting the idea of a better way. Their recent show at Melbourne’s The Palace Theatre exemplified perfectly why this band has earned the noble label of “stalwarts.”
The opening numbers — Hate The Taste, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, Let The Day Begin — mobilised the audience and established the tropes that sustained throughout the set: Robert bent broken over his bass, Peter leaning back as he manipulated his crowded pedalboard, and drummer Leah Shapiro‘s controlled, delicate style.
They played through militarised versions of their material, with songs like Beat The Devil’s Tatoo, Ain’t No Easy Way, Berlin and Screaming Gun augmented and elaborated upon with propulsive jams that felt fluid instead of tacked-on.
Before the siren-like opening chords of Stop, Robert addressed the crowd and proposed an experiment. After some self-conscious verbal stumbling, accompanied as always by multiple squints and face-rubs, he explained that there was “no need to be packed in like fucking sardines out there” and invited the crowd to jump over the security barricade, for which there was also “no need.” “I cleared it with the guys in the back,” he said, though by then security were making their egress from the area as crowdmembers swarmed over the barricade and those behind them staggered forward.
Performances of Fire Walker and In Like The Rose went unimpeded, with Robert clutching his bass to his chest and crouching beside the crowd––arms shot up as Robert tried to quell the joyous smirk on his face. During the band’s performance of Six Barrel Shotgun, security decided the fans had had their fun and proceeded with the clampdown.
But, as one security member confidently ushered fans out of the stage-front area, a bass headstock slowly inched its way towards his head and nudged his temple. A stare-off ensued between Robert and Security Man, whose cantankerous mien scrutinised every feature of Robert’s face, as Robert wagged his finger at him to say, “Uh-uh.”
After stage-front had been successfully vacated, an incredulous Robert took the mic again: “Look, we cleared it with the guys in the back…no one’s gonna be doing any moshing or any violent shit…this is just a good time…fuckin’ come on…there’s no need for this, guys…just let them back in…we’re okay with it…it’s all good, man.”
Within seconds there were even more people pinched between the stage and the barricade than there had been before the forced displacement. A raucous, extended performance of flagship tune Spread Your Love, a two-song acoustic interlude during which Peter and Robert performed flanking an vintage condenser mic, and BRMC took everybody home.
“I fell in love with a sweet sensation…” *krrrang* “I gave my heart to a simple chord…” *drrng* “I gave my soul to a new religion…” *brngsh* “Whatever happened to you…?” The sounds from Robert’s mighty bass filled in the interstices between the words which every fan had etched into their minds. A count-in and a riot ensued. They followed with a swirling then stomping then screaming performance of Sell It before giving their sincere thanks to a crowd dripping with sweat, and exiting the stage together.