Wedgewood Rooms - October 2005
As soon as the lights go down, and one man takes the stage to an intro of what sounds like the chant of a chain gang, it’s obvious that BRMC have changed. The first three songs are solo; one man, an acoustic guitar and a harmonica on a neck brace. From the feel of these opening songs there is an indication that they may have been paying close attention the recent swath of Dylan documentaries. The sound is folk-blues-country, very Deep South with lots of finger-picking. The singer’s voice works well in this context, sounding ragged and burnt-out from days in the desert but filled with a gallon of bile. As the remainder of the band come up, after the third tune, the sound broadens out into spacey trailer-park dirges, with hints of their early sound coming through in brief rocky patches. As the set progresses with scarcely any commentary from either the band or the rapt audience, the heaviness gradually increases. There’s a droning shoe-gazer feel to it; a simple yet spacious wall of sound, very loud but somehow very mellow. The chords get thicker, congealing into the corners of the room like the over-abundant stage smoke. The lights cast simple washes of colour over the band, who pace and lurch around in the dense fogbank. The occasional hit is dropped into the set and here the audience make rather more noise than they have before. As the set nears an end, keys and a trombone are thrown into the melting pot for some slower numbers, with more than a hint of the bluegrass about them. After maybe seventy minutes they leave the stage, forcing the crowd to demand an encore in time-honoured fashion. They return to shouts and applause, and play the ace card they’ve been saving all night by letting rip with ‘Spread Your Love’. And the crowd do exactly that, with even the ‘I-prefer-the-earlier-stuff’ lobby grinning and singing along. They follow this with another couple of dirge-like country tunes, with funereal drumming and shimmering vibrato chords. It’s widescreen music, right up until the very last note. The audience are largely surprised by the show, but only a few seem to have been disappointed by what appears to be a successful and intriguing reinvention. BRMC are back.