Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + The Duke Spirit @ Birmingham Academy, 8th December 2010


Some will have The Duke Spirit’s muse as alternative noise/tremulous rock ‘n roll. Their USP has to be lead singer, Leila Moss, whose striking stage presence and muscular vocals tick all the positive boxes for a much needed realignment in male dominated rock. She’s comfortable with the catalogue of archetypal posturing: firm foot on monitor, use of mic-stand as performance accessory but eschewing the cliched rock-chick persona.

For this reviewer the band conjured up happy memories of humping crescendoes and dirge mantras not heard since Iron Butterfly. And since I did see them live and you didn’t, surely the essence of acid-fried counter-culture Artemis, Grace Slick, with Jefferson Airplane has to be in here somewhere. The new single ‘Surrender’ has a more melodic, insistent immediacy to it and deserves to cut a swathe through the more reactionary FM Rockers’ playlists.

Set list, approx: Cherry T, Step, EUYS, Red W, Hello, Procession, Surrender, Don’t Wait, Lion.


The freezing wrath of Northern blizzards meant a day’s postponement for this gig but the huddled, soon to be slightly minging, punters were enough to dispel any lingering doubts that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club might bring that northern chill to the 02. BRMC Chill? There’s an oxymoron.

Opener 666 is introed with a gritty John Lee Hooker track with stage bathed in sepulchral blue floodlight worthy of the bleakest episode of The Wire. Throughout the set the band’s definitive signature sound is as much defined by bassist Rob Been’s pyrotechnic dexterity as with his tandem faustian pact with drummer Leah Shapiro. As for guitarist, Peter Hayes, he’s mostly off with the Pink Fairies. Together theirs is a terrible beauty to behold. At times, Been is effectively playing lead given his capacity to play single note blister riffs or sack of nails cluster chords with demonic virtuosity. The clue’s in the song title. Sometimes he plays low-slung, gun-slinger, posed in strobe back-lit silhouette, sometimes chest embraced angular like a Sixties popster.


Hayes, head down, barely distinguishable with sheepdog locks generated genetically modifying, glacier trembling sounds that had our bodies rendered in a state of temporal flux orifice event horizons. BRMC play loud. Very loud. Not your Metal banshee wail or Dance/Trance bass-bin trouser vibrator but more like Grond, the wolf-shaped battering ram at the gates of Gondor about to head-butt your psyche. And most refreshing too. As black-board nail scratching riffs insinuate like half-woken nightmares, stabbing lights swirl and twirl above the punters like prowling Martian Death Rays inexplicably pissed on Lucozade.


The pace is relentless and it has to be said there were several numbers that lacked distinction and were more formulaic notwithstanding BRMC’s dynamic hardly being eclectic. But the big guns are out in force with ‘What Ever Happened To My Rock ‘n Roll’, where boy and girl embraced in hedonistic delirium and went apeshit. Likewise, with Hell’s answer to the hoedown, ‘Ain’t No Easy Way Out’ celebrated its bashful homage to Led Zep’s Bron Y Aur Stomp as bass and drum boulder crushing beats resembled a simultaneous brontosaurus’ knee-trembling orgasm.


The bombardment ceased momentarily for an acoustic truce with Rob Been playing a solo number. But the peace is short lived as we retreat to the trenches and hostilities resume. All too soon it’s time for encores. Inevitably, we’re bludgeoned with the tectonic plate shifting ‘Spread Your Wings’ that’s, let’s be honest, a delightful kiss of affection to Jean Genie, Blockbuster and Spirit In The Sky. Penultimate number way off the set list is a lunatic blaze of bass wizardry that sees the band disintegrate into sonic apocalypse. An apposite sense of closure we think as we prepare to wade through plastic cup tsunami (are they recycled, 02?) but wait. With stage awash again in lagoon blue floodlight they lullaby us goodnight with the C&W caressing ‘Open Invitation’. BRMC: they do your head in, they do irony – they do the business.

Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Katja Ogrin

About Author

3 thoughts on “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + The Duke Spirit @ Birmingham Academy, 8th December 2010

  1. intro track is by buddy guy.
    … oh and it´s spread your ‘love’, not ‘wings’ other than that brilliant write up. 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *