While its latest album, ''Howl," is gloriously saturated in American roots music such as gospel, country, and blues, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club didn't overlook its noisier, harder-rocking past during a potent, sold-out show Tuesday at the Paradise.
The California trio liberally dipped into its previous albums for an emotionally charged performance that showed off its versatility. Still, the selections from ''Howl" were the most affecting. It's one thing to get an audience pogoing with wailing guitars and storm trooper drum riffs, but it's quite another to hold them rapt when singing songs that sound like back-porch Sunday hymns.
The nearly 90-minute set opened with singer-guitarist Peter Hayes performing the plaintive ''Devil's Waitin'." It's a beautiful song, framed by the fragile simplicity of Hayes's warm, coarse voice threading through his acoustic accompaniment. Playing harmonica as well as guitar, Hayes also made solo work of the Dylanesque ''Fault Line."
He was joined by his bandmates -- singer-bassist Robert Levon Been and drummer Nick Jago -- for ''Restless Sinner," and for the remainder of the night, the lead vocals were almost equally divided between Been and Hayes. Both are multi-instrumentalists (Hayes even played trombone on ''Promise"), and it gave the performance a welcome unpredictability.
The evening's initially melancholy mood received a jolt with ''Shuffle Your Feet," a snaky song with a big, hand-clapping, sing-along chorus. There's a real swagger here, which should probably be expected from a band named for Marlon Brando's biker gang in the 1950s cult film ''The Wild One."
That attitude was sustained through the wily country-rocker ''Ain't No Easy Way," with its sexy slide guitar runs and its lyrics about falling in love. Things really took a jagged turn with the bitter ''Love Burns," from the band's eponymous 2000 debut. In those days, the trio's tightly wound sound was compared to the Jesus & Mary Chain's, but as it proved Tuesday night, it can veer effortlessly from all-out blustery rock to reflective songs that could have been plucked from The Band's ''Music From Big Pink."