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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (acoustic) @ Great American Music Hall, 9/8/08

September 9, 2008

BRMC’s 2 night stint at the Great American Music Hall could unofficially serve as a 10 year anniversary for the duo. Formed after Peter Hayes left Brian Jonestown Massacre, for reasons I can only guess at, Robert Been and Hayes teamed up with now former drummer Nick Jago to make their darkly beautiful rock ‘n roll.

Monday was acoustic night, and when I saw the setlist being taped to the stage, I knew we were in for a treat. It was a full page in small print. The venue was only half full, as most interested BRMC fans proclaimed that an acoustic set was too mellow, but alas, they missed out.


Hayes came on stage first, playing a handful of southern, soulful songs proclaiming “your stuck with me for awhile”. A cigarette dangling from his mouth, he mumbled as he got his guitar and amp situated. What followed were 4 or so tracks that felt so intimate and informal, it was like watching him play on his back porch. The harmonica strapped to his neck, he made no eye contact with the audience as he played. His cigarette worn voice resisted the high notes. A new song was performed that didn’t even have a title yet.

Rob joined him, and performed a few tracks with Peter’s assistance. As they played together, making eye contact often, they seemed to communicate with each other. Rob covered a Dylan song- Visions of Johanna– as Peter took a break from the stage.

Instrument issues seemed to persist throughout the show. There was a lot of instrument switching going on. But the sound was so crisp and clear, it was like how HDTV sometimes hurts your eyes its so clear- I could literally hear everything.


The crowd watched along, echoing the mellow vibe. However, the stripped down sound couldn’t mask those who thought this was a bar. Loud drunken banter washed up to the front of the stage often, but it didn’t seem to affect them.

The hits started coming when they invited their replacement drummer, Leah Shapiro, came out on stage. Most of the songs translate incredibly well acoustically, but I would have wanted some modifications to the arrangements to suit the scene. Particularly in Love Burns, which is probably my favorite song of theirs, I was expecting a slower tempo, or more dramatic presentation.

While the first part of the show had its moments, I thought they really loosened up and got into it for the encore. They seemed to not want to get off the stage, as a couple more songs turned into a couple more than a couple more.

I often enjoy acoustic sets more after the fact than during. But after 2+ hours, BRMC acoustic style did not leave us wondering whatever happened to my rock ‘n roll.

Though I am looking forward to that tonight.

Setlist anyone?

BRMC performance: 8.5/10
venue (Great American Music Hall): 9/10
crowd/scene: 6/10
value ($25/ticket): 9/10
memorable: 7.5/10


  1. I was one of those, who said “Maybe I’ll just go to the electric show. It’s really what their sound is about anyway” I am SO glad I went to this acoustic set though for all the reasons you describe. Especially their interaction. The past two performances I’ve seen, it seems like they kept to their own sides of the stage.

    This time it was so intimate I couldn’t help but walk away feeling as if we were all friends now. That they sat down and played a set for me.

    Plus I was able to really immerse myself in their voices since they didn’t have to fight with a wall of sound that usually accompanies their performance. Truly beautiful and often gut-wrenching. I feel a little spoiled.

    Oh, and are they not adorably shy? It’s such an interesting dynamic when an artist performs so strongly on stage but when the last chord rings on the guitar, they tuck back inside their shell with a shy smile and brief glance to adoring fans. I just want to eat them up. ;0)

  2. set list:

    Complicated Situation
    Grind My Bones
    Fault Line
    the Toll
    Devil’s Waiting
    Sympathetic Noose
    the Line
    Tonight’s With you
    Cool Water
    Visions of Johanna
    Shuffle Your Feet
    Weight of the World
    Love Burns
    Screaming Gun
    20 Hours
    666 Conducer
    Fine Way to Lose
    Restless Sinner
    Ain’t No Easy Way
    Going Under
    Killing the Light
    Spread Your Love
    Shade of Blue

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