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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Octagon, Sheffield University, 4/11/2003

  by Denzil Watson

published: 21 / 11 / 2003

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Octagon, Sheffield University, 4/11/2003


With back-lighting, dry ice and regulation black, Denzil Watson finds himself happily transported back to 1986 at a recent Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig at the Sheffield University Octagon

Ahhhhh! Captain, we've hit a time warp. There's kids with long hair everywhere, dressed in regulation black, wandering around the vast chasm that goes by the name of the Sheffield University Octagon. Some of them are gazing down at their black leather boots. It's 1986 all over again. Three lone silhouettes saunter on stage and crank up their instruments. With all the back-lighting and dry ice, one could be forgiven for thinking it was indeed circa 1986 and the Jesus and Mary Chain had just taken the stage. By now, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club must have become sick to death of the Mary Chain comparison. But maybe not. Perhaps they're more flattered by it. They should be. A reliable source close to Jim Reid informs me that he has indeed heard of BRMC and is quietly impressed by them. And while there can be no doubt they've drawn heavily on a similar blueprint to Glasgow's Reid Brothers, no other band has taken-up the batten handed down to them by the likes of the Velvet Underground as effectively as they. The Mary Chain comparisons are not as endless as some make them out to be. On tonight's showing Black Rebel most definitely have one boot firmly in the rock camp, as opposed to in the garage or down on the beach, less surf, more fuzz. And in the current climate of hype, their beautifully understated quality is both endearing and refreshing. Perhaps that's why NME just don't quite get them. What do you mean? You want us to be interested in the music you're making and not which Hollywood star you're currently dating? Put simply, they don't play the fame game. Tonight there's just an omnipresent feeling between crowd and band that it's the music that should speak for itself. Hence there's no excessive dialogue with the audience. Just the occasional polite "Thanks" or "Hope you're enjoying this" from bassist/vocalist Robert Turner. Meanwhile, far right, the enigmatic Peter Hayes hugs the side of the stage, twiddling the occasional knob and playing the odd bit of slide guitar. At the back drummer Nick Jago, the only Brit in the San Fran trio, is certainly not absent without leave, pounding reliably through the band's rock solid ninety-minute set. Sometimes their reliance on the music alone, plus the apparent disengagement of the band, can be their Achilles heel. At Leeds Festival earlier in the year, shorn of a decent sound, they did flounder on the vast main stage. No such problems tonight, as they soar and crash through wave-after-wave of their finely tuned, fuzzed-up white noise. They rip through equal proportions of their self-titled debut and 'Take them on, on your own', throwing in a new song and a smattering of 'B' sides for good measure. 'Whatever happened to my rock'n'roll' still rocks like a motherf***ker, and while it has no natural successor on the new album, songs of the ilk of 'US Government' and 'Six-Barrel Shotgun' have a sharper, more focused edge to them. With the encores, things take a melancholic turn with 'Suddenly' ("A song we've never played live before" - you wouldn't know) before they bring us back up to one final sonic peak via the epic ten minute set closer 'Heart and Soul' with its multiple false-endings. And then they're gone, shuffling off the stage and back into the shadows as unassumingly as they entered it, to the strains of Johnny Cash, the original man in black. Set list: Six-Barrel Shotgun US Government Stop Love Burns White Palms Rise or Fall We're All in Love New Song In Like the Rose Hi/Low Awake Punk Song Shade of Blue Going Under Encores : Suddenly Red Eyes and Tears Salvation Heart and Soul

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Octagon, Sheffield University, 4/11/2003

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Octagon, Sheffield University, 4/11/2003

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