304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
When a band gives many reviewers cause to run out of superlatives on their first two albums, you know something special is happening. Grace and Aaron Bond released We Fly Free to great applause and backed it up with Saving Grace a year later to equal praise. In fact I said of the first: “a stupendous collection of original, varied and exquisite takes on our beloved blues with just the right amount of quality rock injected to great effect” and of the second: “it may not seem quite as immediate as the phenomenal debut but repeated listenings will leave you in no doubt that stunning first album now has a stunning companion…listen and buy!”
Now, When Rivers Meet have been on tour and recorded a live selection from those two albums, plus a couple from their EPs (The Uprising and Innocence of Youth) and released a CD/DVD package showing how good they look and sound live…the title may not be imaginative, but it is descriptive, so sit back and listen and watch a band at the peak of their powers backed by the rock solid rhythm section of Roger Innis and James Fox.
The set opens, as did the We Fly Free album, with Did I Break the Law: a great, traditional blues beat and the slide riff is class and classic; the vocals also capture your attention immediately with the range, expression and power. A slightly muddy mix at the beginning but the balance is quickly sorted out and this powerful number transfers wonderfully to the live stage. Walking on the Wire is a vocal duet pitched perfectly by Grace and Aaron and backed by a blues rock beat and delicious slide…pity they didn’t take turns on solos of at least an hour in duration…each! The unaccompanied (apart from the odd drum fill) to My Babe Says He Loves Me will send shivers as this slice of blues/gospel/rock powers up into a stunning live reading of an already great song. The slide solo is genius and as emotive as the lyrics.
Battleground is quality blues rock with an enthralling vocal melody carried beautifully above the subtle bass and drum before equally subtle chords build nicely to a neat stop/start vocal section. Don’t Tell Me Goodbye maintains its slow and moody feel of the original, with gentle strummed guitar behind the heartbreaking lyrical performance. It verges on country, especially during the harmonies and seeing them looking at each other with feeling somehow adds pathos, gravitas and brings a tear to a jaded eye…despite Grace laughing toward the end. Free Man has the slide intro that, like Nazareth’s Woke Up this Morning, grabs the attention then develops into another stomping blues rock masterpiece…with added mandolin lifting it that bit higher.
Lost and Found is slinky slide over a heavy Zeppelin-esque riff but with more subtlety…controversial perhaps but listen to the slide extensions to the basic riff and it shows how to embellish without blowing it. Grace is peerless and the slide solo with a brilliant bass solo behind it is genius, remarkable and remarkably good if woefully short.
Innocence of Youth is even more electrifying live…that weighty riff with light barred chords behind the vocals increases the power and impact of a great song made greater in this setting. Bury My Body is suitably funereal; Morricone would be exceedingly jealous as the whistling intro leads to acoustic backing a lovely vocal duet…the outro is worth waiting for too as the violin and acoustic meld beautifully. Tomorrow begins with a chiming piano and then Grace suddenly finds herself with some competition…the audience sing every word with her and add significantly to the atmosphere. A moment in time that makes you wish you were there. Kissing the Sky isn’t Hendrix: it’s a multi-layered song with a cracking bass line, great riff, great vocals and a mandolin solo of dexterity and genius. Want Our Love is, possibly, one of their heaviest blues that is pierced by gossamer violin phrasing (that’s a bit of an oxymoronic phrase but seems to fit best!) and lots of “Whoa oh ohs” for the crowd to enjoy too. Set closer, Testify, is a perennial favourite of mine with its true blues rock of the British variety with r ’n’ b touches in the chord play and the short violin solo plus the middle section was always destined for audience participation with its clapping and sing-a-long-ness, and the audience take full advantage.
This is a stunning concert on CD and then watching it on DVD brings the added dimension of watching Grace, Aaron and the band combining and performing impeccably from first note to last. The only shame is that any between-song chat is edited out: as this was recorded over two nights, it probably made sense.
When Rivers Meet seen and heard on Live on Tour, the energy of Flying Free captured on CD and DVD
Did I Break the Law
Walking on the Wire
My Babe Says He Loves Me
Don’t Tell Me Goodbye
Lost and Found
Innocence of Youth
Bury My Body
Kissing the Sky
Want Our Love
Grace Bond: Vocals, mandolin, fiddle
Aaron Bond: Vocals, guitar
Roger Inniss: Bass
James Fox: drums, keys, backing vocals
You’ve heard them on CD, seen them on DVD, now see them really live:
Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (October 14), Gloucester Guildhall (October 16), Huddersfield Parish (October 21), York Crescent (October 23), Southend Chinnerys (October 27), Liverpool Arts (October 29), and Milton Keynes Stables (October 30) and at the ‘Rocktober’ concerts alongside Reef, King King, and The Damn Truth at O2 Bristol Academy (October 15), Wilko Johnson and King King at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (October 18), and The Sweet, King King and The Damn Truth at O2 Sheffield Academy (October 22)