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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and “Whatever Happened to Their Rock n’ Roll?”

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club made their last US appearance at the Glass House in downtown Pomona on Oct. 17th. Three customized American motorcycles shouted for attention amidst a sea of leather-clad goth bikers sucking Marlboros in front of the venue. You could surprisingly spot Robert Levon Been (bass) and Peter Hayes (guitar) hanging outside with concertgoers before the intimate show.

BRMC is known to oscillate between fast-paced distorted jams and slower acoustic melodies. For this particular show, the band chose predominantly electric-based songs, jumping right into the catchy "Hate the Taste" off their newest album Spectar at the Feast. The dancy drum beat drove the chorus as Hayes’ declared, “I want to ride with you... Why won’t you take me there,” a fitting invitation to start the night.

Following this strong opening, the trio moved smoothly into the title track off their sixth album Beat the Devil’s Tattoo. Been changed his bass for an acoustic guitar almost unnoticed as drummer Leah Shapiro began pounding a slow rhythm behind him. Possessing a hypnotic riff and strong harmonies, the song has an authentic bluesy sound, and an almost slave-holler chorus that cries of delta blues and struggle - factors ever-present in BRMC’s music. During an epic solo, Been clutched his guitar much like a rifle, firing away over the audience, exhibiting another weapon in his arsenal of instruments.

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As the crowd applauded with much enthusiasm, Hayes slipped into the shadows and returned wailing on his newly attached harmonica. Shapiro simultaneously shook a tambourine in the air, igniting the fans. Immediately the trio poured into the foot-stomping "Ain’t No Easy Way," with both Hayes and Been equipped with metal slides, a strong point of the show. Changing instruments throughout the evening displayed Hayes and Been’s dynamic musicianship, particularly evident a few songs later during Been’s solo piano rendition of "Promise."

The highlight of the night came during the encore when Hayes and Been returned with acoustic guitars and huddled around a single microphone. Hayes carefully placed a joint in the neck of his acoustic before leading the duo in "Complicated Situation" - a soft heart-felt song filled with harmonies and harmonica howls.  When the band shed their acoustics and revitalized their electric guitars, Shapiro returned for a finale of "Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song)," closing the night with a bang and leaving the audience with ringing ears.

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Hayes and Been have been playing together for the past fifteen years and show obvious chemistry. With seven studio albums under their belt, they have plenty of material to choose from. The rockers will head to Australia, New Zealand and Asia in the upcoming months before touring France in Feb. 2014.

Words by David Julius Roston; Photos by Paula Tripodi

Note: The words in Music Connection’s “Photo Blog Live Music Reviews” are opinions expressed by the writer/photographer and may not reflect those of Music Connection magazine. To get in contact with a writer/photographer, you may email contactmc[at]musicconnection.com.