Show Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Duke Spirit at the Pageant, Friday April 25
The Duke Spirit has all of the ingredients it should take to make a lasting first impression and win over new audiences. Liela Moss is a captivating presence, a confident lead singer with a classic voice that takes cues from Björk’s adventurous melodies and Nico’s dark sensuality. The quartet behind her was just as poised, laying off tight, raucous versions of songs from this year’s amazing Neptune.
It’s surprising and unfortunate, then, that the London quintet’s diverse, high-energy set on Friday night (where it opened for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) wasn’t enough to rein in the wandering attention spans of the Pageant crowd. With a sound reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s early work with producer Joe Boyd, the Duke Spirit’s performance conjured images of ‘60s-London psychedelia, but didn’t rely on nostalgia or other throwback gimmickry for impact. Catchy single “The Step and the Walk” did seem to get through to the somewhat restless audience, and by the set’s end there was definitely a buzz in the room. Hopefully the band will give St. Louis another chance, as it would great to see them again on a headlining tour at a smaller club.
Unlike its May 2007 St. Louis show (which was more or less a snoozefest), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club showed up and wasted no time in dialing up the intensity level: The Los Angeles trio blasted out of the gate with “666 Conducer” and “Berlin,” both from its most recent full-length release Baby 81.
A better sound mix and much more interesting lighting design (save for the strobes, which got old after a while) likely caused this increased energy. But BRMC is clearly at its best when sticking to its hook-laden, no-frills rockers. In fact, the band lost the crowd during its long, meandering detour to the land of pseudo-bluesy-gospel balladry – i.e., the middle of the set, when it spent a little too much time on selections from 2005’s Howl. Still, by the end it was able to regain control and ended strong with a blistering version of the early song “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘N Roll.”
Drummer Nick Jago’s playing still seemed uncertain -- which was surprising considering the amount of time BRMC has logged on the road in the past few years. But what he lacks in technical proficiency, he’s always made up for with a straightforward style that channels the same simple charm that makes Charlie Watts’ drumming work so well in the Rolling Stones. Bassist Robert Turner’s nasally snarl was piercing and he really seemed to step up and take over the frontman role for most of the show, although guitarist Peter Hayes added plenty of blaring vintage Fender amplifier bite and crunch.
-- Shae Moseley