Sunday, March 21, 2010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club / Band of Skulls - House of Blues - Houston, TX 3/20/2010

There's something about watching British white guys peel off American blues guitar licks that just bugs the shit out of me. No matter how many effects pedals the instrument is run through. Which is pretty much all Band of Skulls is. A guy wanking on guitar interspersed with repetitive, practically chanted lyrical refrains. There were a couple of songs that sounded like they might have had actual verses, but they were in short supply. The bassist was pretty easy on the eyes, and I found it endearing that she had to look at the neck of her bass to play the structures, but beyond that they didn't have much going on. Not unlistenable, just ultimately boring.

BRMC, on the other hand, left almost nothing to be desired. They could have easily held down the night with their repertoire of window rattling, reverb heavy guitar gut punches, but chose instead to mix things up, alternating those energetic post-punk pounders with mellower, quieter fare featuring acoustic guitar, keyboard, and, on one occasion, piano, largely drawn from their Howl era. Primarily, though, they stuck with their LOUD post-punk pop mixing in elements of blues, americana and pschedelia to go with the driving bass, pounding drums and overdriven guitar.

Bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes traded and overlapped vocals, with Hayes maintaining a laid back, in control stage presence while Been struck rock star poses and strutted the stage in full on performance mode. Stealing the show, though, was new drummer Leah Shapiro, who beat on her drum kit like she had caught it fucking her siggo. I've rarely seen a drummer hit that hard and use the drums that stylistically while still being completely dialed in to what the band was accomplishing as a unit.

Accompanying the dizzying array of musical styles and energy fluctuations was a stage show consisting of flashing strobes and rotating mini-flood lights backlighting the band and, thus, illuminating the audience. I would estimate fairly half the show the lighting wasn't even focused on the band. In the context of the musical environment they were creating, it was simply amazing. It also served to dissolve the barrier between band and audience, giving you the sensation that you were as much a part of making this thing worthwhile and, indeed, spectacularly successful.

I didn't have any doubts about this show being good. I didn't expect it to kick my ass half way to Heaven. I've said it so often it's become an annoying mantra - this is the best band in America. March 20th at the Houston House of Blues did nothing if not cement that opinion in my mind for some time to come.

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