Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: The Garage, Monday August 22

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: The Garage, Monday August 22

A rapturous response greets the first outing in the capital for revitalised BRMC’s new direction

BRMC are a band who once looked doomed to an eternity in the graveyard of goth for being miserable bastards, making a rubbish second album and that incident with the inflatable penis. Yet miraculously, these days they are more than adept at spreading the love. Reunited with drummer Nick Jago, joined by touring bassist/guitarist Spike and in a celebratory mood, they’ve chosen tonight to debut material from third album ‘Howl’ to a bunch of fans who snapped up tickets faster than this year’s Big Brother has been forgotten.

“LA gets too much stuff anyway,” says scruffy haired bassist Robert Levon Been, sipping Jack Daniel’s by the bar post-gig and in a good mood because it’s his birthday (he’s 27, apparently). “Playing a gig beats my last couple of birthdays, which I spent on aeroplanes. I wanted it to be mandatory for everyone to bring me a gift at the gig.”

Onstage, among red drapes and black candelabras, the boys in black burst into the saucy a cappella stomp of ‘Shuffle Your Feet’. Suddenly blue and white fairy lights dangling across the ceiling come to life. If you ignore the fact that condensed sweat drips off the walls and into everyone’s drinks, it’s all rather beautiful. Ditching the psychedelic buzz fuzz that threatened to eat them up on the last album, it’s more Jon Spencer than The Jesus And Mary Chain.

The Dylan-esque ‘Ain’t No Easy Way’ continues their new found Delta-stylings while mixing them up with a big ’70s country rock sound that stays just the right side of harmonica overkill. Robert and guitarist Peter Hayes stand on opposite sides holding court like supremely self-assured rock gods who’ve suddenly found themselves on the set of some dodgy vampire B-movie. At the back, Nick Jago slinks away among the clatter of his drums, head down and sticks up, playing down the crazy drummer routine. Because tonight much more important than madness are new tunes, such as the Ginsberg-inspired ‘Howl’. Marrying the school of nu-gaze with something a little bit heavier and a lot dirtier, it fills the room like an epic Spiritualized track.

‘Whatever Happened To My Rock’N’Roll’ may still be a pounding, incessant anthem for a despondent generation and ‘As Sure As The Sun’ a slinky lesson in how to make guitars drip and ooze with whiskey and sex, but it’s BRMC’s new urban cowpoke direction that the crowd are here for tonight. Despite the new album only being released on the day of the show, the congregation of leather-clad, angel-headed London hipsters are shaking their stuff like they were played these new songs while in the womb. When Hayes leads them into a shouty chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’, it’s a sure sign that these three Rebels have been catapulted back into our hearts, where they belong. In a few nights’ time, they’ll play a sold-out acoustic show at the Camden Barfly. Whatever happened to their rock’n’roll? It evolved, and is all the better for it.

Leonie Cooper