Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
photos : Alex Staszko
Six months after Black Rebel Motorcycle Club last played Manchester’s Ritz in 2010 the band were hit hard by the sudden death of Michael Been; sound engineer and father of core member Robert. Nonetheless, named as one of the hardest working bands of modern times, they honoured a tour before taking justified time out. The last two years have seen them sculpting cathartic writings into their seventh studio album Specter at the Feast and, released one week before the gig, they were here to show it off to Manchester’s rock and rollers.
It’d be safe to say BRMC blew the fucking roof off the Ritz three years ago and the heady buzz of anticipation for a repeat performance was tangible throughout the packed-in crowd.
They opened quietly with the first track from the new album “Fire Walker”; a slow beautiful track with Been’s fuzzy bass complimenting his warm voice and vocal harmonies from the rest of the band. The faster paced new track “Rival” followed and the crowd responded with a frenzied mosh-pit sending over-priced beer into arching showers, setting the scene for the rest of the gig. BRMC always give quality for ticket price and over the two hour set they delivered a stonking 23 tracks.
The nine off the new album paid homage to their ability to equally evoke tears or the feeling of omnipotence in the listener; the fevered moshing was certainly evidence of the latter. The expected early favourites “Whatever Happened to my Rock & Roll (Punk Song)” and “Spread Your Love” ensured the venue’s rafters were rattled and the bouncy dance-floor tested to the max. Been seemed immersed in his work for most of the set with only little acknowledgement of the audience, oblivious to the usual tense looks sent his way by the shyer guitarist Hayes, yet the audience lapped him up; here the feed is from the music, not in platitudes and on-stage banter. Pocket-sized stickstress Leah Shapiro thundered away with an anxious concentration, dwarved by her new custom-built Sonor drumkit, particularly impressive while setting the beat on the encore for “Sell it”. They closed with the new heart wrenching “Lose Yourself”; I swear next time they tour this will have grown men crying.
Call me biased, but every time I’ve seen BRMC live I’ve left with the feeling that I’ve just witnessed something very special, and on that vulgarly cold Sunday evening I know I was not alone. I’ve tried everything else, it all comes back to rock & roll.