Rock City, Nottingham is a proper old fashioned, no frills rock venue, cavernous and industrial, a mass of cast iron beams, pillars and staircases, exposed pipework and ducting. There are no concessions to comfort. What seats there are are just painted wooden boxes. No one tells you off if you stand on the tables. It takes a lot to shake a building like Rock City.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club managed to make the place buzz though, on Friday night, March 29th, when they played to a packed house – and that’s a literal buzz. At times the whole building shook with the sheer remarkable power of the band and it was sometimes hard to believe that there were only three people on the stage playing music every bit as dirty and stripped down as the building itself.
Opening with a cover of “Let the Day Begin” (in tribute to bassist Robert Been’s father, Michael Been of The Call) the band set out it’s stall early as drummer Leah Shapiro provided a beat that seemed to fill the whole venue, Been added a layer of booming bass across the top for Peter Hayes to finish off the trademark BRMC sound with his feedback laden guitar. The three interacted remarkably little on stage, as this was all about the music; they don’t really do showmanship. Apart from a few words at the end and a moan about the cold the band didn’t speak much to the crowd either – they had more important things to do. Been’s on-stage persona is one of extreme intensity, all angles and postures, twisting into complex shapes with this bass, while Hayes seems more relaxed and at home and as the powerhouse of the band’s new rockier sound Shapiro puts in an extraordinary amount of work at the back.
At the stage front it went mad right from the word go, of course, but looking around the hall it was clear that almost everyone in the 2000-strong full house was dancing in their fashion, even the shy ones at the back. Not since the heady days of the Emperor Caligula have so many heads bobbed in unison, and most appeared to be singing along too. “Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘n’ Roll?” was welcomed with a huge roar as was “666 Conducer”, which featured a long feedback filled intro before Hayes launched into a growling bluesy vocal.
A three song acoustic and piano solos section gave Shapiro a well earned break in the middle of the set, and the second half was delivered with even more intensity than the first – with “Lullaby” the pick of the songs from the new album Specter At The Feast and an encore of “Sell It” and “Lose Yourself”. A great night at one of the best rock venues in the U.K. – fantastic.