Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Fort York, Toronto ON, September 20
Published Sep 21, 2015After an afternoon dominated by mellow and rootsy acts (Ron Sexsmith, Punch Brothers, Lord Huron), TURF-goers craving some rock'n'roll were thrilled to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club hit the stage. Despite the warm-ish temperature, they were, of course, black-clad, with vocalists/guitarists Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes both wearing de rigeur black leather jackets and T-shirts. Along with on-point drummer Leah Shapiro, the veteran power trio launched into a sizzling 80-minute set that stood as the TURF highlight for this writer.
The pounding riffs of set opener "Devil's Tattoo," one of the band's best-known cuts and the title track of their 2010 album, set the tone. They verged on Black Sabbath territory, and the tight guitar interplay between Been and Hayes on other numbers suggested that '70s classic rock sits alongside garage rock and psychedelia as core elements of the BRMC sound.
Switching axes after nearly every song, the pair riffed in highly impressive fashion, with Been the more demonstrative in terms of theatrical guitar poses. He and Hayes also traded off lead vocals, sometimes within the same song, as on "Weapon Of Choice." Hayes also wielded a bluesy harmonica at times, including on set highlight "Ain't No Easy Way." It was one on many cuts from their seminal 2005 album, Howl, and it was pleasing to hear plenty of it reprised. Another highlight, halfway through, was "Berlin," and it's searing refrain "what happened to the revolution" had you thinking that BRMC would make a great soundtrack for the storming of the barricades.
An hour in, Been told the clearly impressed crowd that "this is our last show for a while. We have to take time to write a new record." He then slowed things down by tackling a soulful ballad, "Mercy," originally an outtake from Howl and a nice change of pace.
After a couple more riffy rockers, he announced the last song, adding "it's an honour to play with [headliners] the Pixies. They're the real fuckin' deal." BRMC then fired on all cylinders for searing set closer "Spread Your Love." Consider us suitably infatuated.