Black Rebel Motorcycle Club/Restavrant – Belfast, Limelight 1 – 24 October 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Thursday, 02 November 2017 04:20

It has been a traumatic couple of years since BRMC last visited Belfast, close to the end of the touring cycle in support of 2013’s ‘Specter At The Feast’ album, not least due to drummer Leah Shapiro having to undergo life-saving brain surgery for a condition known as Chiari Malformation. Now, after a subsequent two-year hibernation in the studio, the San Francisco have come out the other side, with a new album, ‘Wrong Creatures’, due to emerge in January and a new touring cycle to promote same.


It’s a bit of a strange environment in which your UR team find ourselves, to be honest… Normally, we’re surrounded by pint-swilling sweaty rockers in dirty jeans and scuffed DMs: tonight’s crowd is more of the hipster variety, with their designer shirts, snotty attitudes and orders made up of “what chardonnay do you have?” and “Hendricks and tonic with lime and ginger”. Fuck me sideways, I thought this was a rock ‘n’f’n’ roll show: just proves how wrong you can be, doesn’t it?


Restavrant 4


First up are self-described “junkyard high” duo Restavrant with their colourful blend of hellbilly punk meets acid country trash. Built on big percussive beats – delivered using an upturned bucket over a cleverly disguised snare drum to give the main effect (aided by strategically placed triggers and loops) – their simple, jangly riffs lie somewhere between Seasick Steve, Bob Log, The White Stripes and rising stars The Picturebooks while possessing the hypnotism of watching an unstoppable aneurism developing in your left frontal lobe: you know it’s there but no matter how hard you try you just can’t excise it’s horrible infection.


Even though the stage is cleared relatively quickly, it is still more than half an hour before the headliners amble onstage, hidden behind an almost impenetrable wall of dark light: it’s an appropriate setting, as their wall of dark, dense disharmonies are punctuated by wails of feedback laden guitar and dissonant harp.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 1


Obviously, BRMC have a new album to promote – even it is not due for another couple of months and therefore, apart from the few tracks released/leaked online, it’s going to be largely unfamiliar to all but the most devout present – and it does indeed get an early pop in terms of lead single ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’, which gets a suitably appreciative reception.


However, as the band almost immediately dive back into their historiography, with the title track from ‘Beat The Devil Tattoo’, it’s just as quickly obviously that these rebels are not at their most protestant… Yes, Shapiro’s dense, pounding beats support the deep resonance of the bass/guitar melodies of Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, both of whose intense vocals exacerbate the combined elements of punk, psyche, alt-country and indie noise which characterizes the BMRC sound – but there is something missing.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 3


OK, their sound doesn’t exactly exemplify a band that jumps around the stage, headbanging like teenage dopeheads, but there is a severe sense of lethargy seeping from the stage. It’s almost as if the band are engaged in a public rehearsal session, running through the tunes for themselves and incognisant of the fact that there are several hundred people looking on. Yes, Shapiro batters the living daylights out of her kit, as if her life depends on her doing so (and it probably does) and Been occasionally collapses to the floor, wrangling the crap out of his instrument and summoning the dark lords of rock ‘n’ roll to give him inspiration to take proceedings to the next level: but, unfortunately, the gods are on their night off, leaning nonchalantly against the bar next door sweeping up the remnants of those over-priced gins.


The last time this motorcycle gang pulled into Belfast, they left a smoking ruin in their exhaust pipes. Unfortunately, their return saw them needing to borrow a set of jack plugs to kickstart their batteries.


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