Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
February 15, 2018
Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
“What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” the coquettish Mildred inquired to the rough and tumble greaser played by Marlon Brando in 1953 motorcycle gang flick The Wild One. “Whaddya got?” was Johnny’s reply. Along with his contemporary Eisenhower Era bad boy of the silver screen James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause), Brando epitomized hip teenage detachment and an aversion to authority figures, even if their contentions with The Man could not be coherently articulated. They defied conventions and represented, along with the then-burgeoning rock n roll scene, a new kind of cool. Fusing the insolence of these romanticized rogues along with the gritty garage rock that emerged during that period, which later set the stage for punk, is the mission undertaken by San Fran’s leather jacket-clad mopheads Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Christening themselves after Brando’s iconic biker brigade in the film, BRMC rode up on Denver’s Ogden Theatre and ran wild with their bluesy shoegaze-on-uppers sound. Kinetic energy bouncing along a bass-heavy beat lends their tunes a noisy buzz piqued by a sneering punk n roll attitude that keeps things fresh. The band ripped through cuts stretching back to their debut, 2001’s B.R.M.C., and continued to favorites from albums Take Them On, On Your Own, Howl, and Baby 81. Their most recent record, 2018’s Wrong Creatures, provided several of the cuts played live, including “Little Thing Gone Wild, “Question of Faith,” and “King of Bones.” The highlight of the evening was their encore rendition of plaintive anthem “What Ever Happened to My Rock n Roll (Punk Song),” which portrays the band itself as the lone remaining standard bearer for the sulking insubordination embodied by Brando and Dean.
Conspicuous by its absence was hit single “Weapon of Choice,” a decision that blew up in their faces like a faulty grenade. It was their only questionable course of action, however. A droney rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” fit their style impeccably as an ode to slicked-back delinquency. The band succeeded in keeping toes tapping and heads bobbing for the entirety of their blistering set. Even if Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are as forthcoming on specific grievances as their eponymous two-wheeled clique, they will doubtlessly continue to hold the torch aloft for angst-ridden youth in search of a reason to revolt.
by Steve Lustig