Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Leeds have history. It was here in November 2003 that the San Francisco psych-garage trio were infamously hauled offstage at the city’s Town Hall, midway through their show, due to concerns that the venue’s 150-year-old floor was about to collapse under the weight of nearly 1,000 people moshing their hearts out.
Nearly 14 years to the day since, it remains an enduring footnote in the band’s legacy; an amuse-bouche of a tale that serves up an idea of the kind of wild reactions their dark indie noise incites amongst leather-jacket wearing rock types.
Their return to the city, at the O2 Academy, comes in anticipation of next year’s Wrong Creatures, their first album for five years; business seemingly remains very much as usual.
Co-founders/frontmen Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been both sneer with greasy malice, flanked by strobe lighting; behind, drummer Leah Shapiro pummels away with a stone-face glare.
There’s an element of pantomime to proceedings; BRMC’s obvious stagecraft – and musical – pretentions to The Jesus and Mary Chain would be almost comical in their stylised devotion, were it not for the fire with which they burn through two-dozen songs in a dusky-glow blaze.
For all their Anglophile leanings, part of BRMC is buried in the barroom back home in America. Little Thing Gone Wild is a snappy Southern-drawl stomper; Ain’t No Easy Way a whiskey-soaked blues bouncer. Stop, hanging low on brash sleazy riffs, swaggers in halfway through and swigs straight from the bourbon bottle. When Hayes goes it alone for the weary delta-country of Devil’s Waitin’, the spectre of Johnny Cash is tangible.
But Brit-charged shoegaze remains their key love too; the druggy aesthetic of Rifles and Awake offering a hedonistically-detached counter to slicked-up brooding boogie-woogie with their tripped-out fuzz.
These are songs mired in murkiness, even the ones with the chunky riffs; 666 Conducer, prowling forward with clipped, moody menace, is a genuinely insidious piece of songwriting. BRMC are not ones for subtlety where grandstanding will do; the bludgeon to the head that is Six-Barrel Shotgun remains testament to that, a whopping cruncher of a hit.
By the time Whatever Happen to My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song) raw, Stooges racket has been crunched, Been is somewhere in the crowd, still wrenching chords out of his bass.
No floors broken tonight, then – but at the very least, shaken to its foundations.