Review by Emily Doyle with photography by Rob Hadley.

Garage rock icons Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are  touring of Europe, the US and Canada in support of their upcoming ‘Wrong Creatures’ album; and tonight, they’ve landed in Birmingham for a show at the O2 Academy.

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Support comes from LA two-piece Restavrant, who deliver a set of blues punk that sound’s like it’s straight out of a junkyard in rural Texas. Frontman Troy Murrah growls over furious slide guitar. Tyler Whiteside rattles away on a custom drum kit made mostly of suitcases, old license plates, and other detritus. Weaving samples and loops into the tracks, they flawlessly blend the organic and the electronic. Murrah pauses to hawk the merchandise: “We have all sorts on the merch stand… T-shirts, CDs, patches, panties…for men or women, they’re very comfortable.”
They do indeed offer cotton thongs emblazoned with their tiger logo, as well as baby grows with the same design. Something for everyone.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club emerge and launch into ‘Little Thing Gone Wild’, released earlier this year. Leah Shapiro sits atop a drum riser in the centre of the stage, flanked by Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been. They have previously claimed to be “anti-frontman”, and that’s certainly the case here. Fan favourite ‘Beat The Devil’s Tattoo’ with it’s winding, folksy vocal gets feet stomping. Levon Been wriggles free of his bass guitar to flirt with the photographers in the pit before they are ushered away. The crowd surges forward, clad in BRMC t-shirts. New tracks receive a hero’s welcome, the Nick Cave-esque ‘Haunt’ lulling the room into a solemn sway. Old favourites are still a mainstay of the set, with 2008’s fuzzed-out anthem ‘Love Burns’ garners whoops and singing along. The band are bathed in red light as atmospheric guitar fills the room. The cutting riff of ‘Stop’ kicks in and the lights begin to strobe. Hayes delivers some wailing guitar while Levon Been drawls into the mic. The beeriest of the crowd reciprocate with some impassioned dancing. Someone further back attempts a power slide.

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They perform new track ‘Carried From The Start’, which features a warbling, droney bass and snarling guitar, before Shapiro and Hayes leave the stage. Levon Been picks up an acoustic guitar and delivers a jarringly fragile acoustic number, before being replaced by Hayes, who does the same. These songs divide the crowd. Some listen intently, while others chatter loudly or head for the bar. In defence of the latter, is it a very long set which has begun to feel formulaic at times.

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A wail on the Hayes’ harmonica signals the return of the full band. Bluesy jam ‘Shuffle Your Feet’ brings energy back into the room, albeit a more laid back one. In the latter portion of the set, hits like ‘Spread Your Love’ and ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ’n’ Roll (Punk Song)’ finally get the room really moving.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are pros at this game, and they clearly have hordes of hard-earned fans. With such an iconic back-catalogue to pull from, though, the set feels comparatively toothless. Nothing was bad about their performance tonight – arguably it was a good evening. The only thing is, BRMC aren’t just a “good” band.

For more images from tonight’s gig visit our Flickr page.

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