It’s not every day that punters waiting to get into a gig are greeted by both the headliner and the opening act squeezing past them on a stairway going into the venue where both will perform to a packed house in a short time. But that’s exactly what happened to anyone caught in the queue at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms when Robert Jon & The Wreck came to town for their maiden venture North of the wall. First, opening act Troy Redfern looking every inch the guitar slinger that he is, then quickly followed by Robert Jon Burrison himself, although the cunning Mr. Burrison was in disguise…he wasn’t wearing his trademark hat.
Proving that men can indeed multitask, Troy Redfern was performing solo, no hiding place on stage when it’s just you and your guitar…and a kick drum. No wall of Marshall cabs, no bandmates, just Troy. But if he was nervous about performing as a one-man band then it didn’t show and you could find the amiable dude at his small merch desk at the back of the room until it was time to go to work. With stunning new album ‘The Fire Cosmic’ blowing minds (and not just for the retina-blitzing cover art) these next six months or so are crucial for Troy as the live music scene explodes back to life and he finds himself opening up on three high-profile, lengthy tours: The Quireboys (October), Wille & The Bandits (March, April 2022) and When Rivers Meet (April, May 2022). As expected, most of the set is culled from the aforementioned ‘The Fire Cosmic’ with a foot-stomping run-through of ‘Waiting For Your Love’ and an atmospheric version of ‘Ghosts’ particularly standing out. Early on, during a furious workout from this incredible, young musician, a string on his gorgeous resonator guitar snaps, leaving Redfern to continue with five strings, he quips “…strings…who needs them…”, before finishing the short, well-received set with a stunning cover of ‘Voodoo Chile’ (“…let’s do this with 5 strings…”). October is just around the corner, buy a ticket for The Quireboys tour and get out of the bar in time to catch Troy Redfern strutting his stuff.
Troy Redfern is on tour with The Quireboys in October and November 2021 and in January and June 2022. He also tours with Wille & The Bandits in March and April, followed by a 17-date tour with When Rivers Meet from April 21st. Tickets: www.troyredfern.com/dates
By the time that the headliners make their way through the crowd and onto the small stage, the venue is set to burst. Quite surreal in times of restrictions and social distancing, and it’s understandable that some gig-goers are a little reluctant to put themself into a situation where they are crammed in alongside total strangers, but live music has returned and acts such as Robert Jon & The Wreck are making the effort to travel to the UK and Europe – at what must be an incredible cost – therefore support from fans of live music is crucial to help the scene survive. The fact that so many have turned out in such uncertain circumstances to catch the Californian outfit on this tour is not lost on Robert Jon Burrison and throughout the night he constantly pays thanks to those who have helped sell out tonight’s show. And what a show it was.
Striking while the creative juices were still flowing, RJ&TW quickly followed up 2020’s ‘Last Light On The Highway’ album with current Magnus opus ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’, and delivered an almighty one-two of knockout albums perhaps not seen since Pearl Jam delivered ‘Ten’ and ‘Vs’ back in the ’90s. The set however opens with a stop-off at debut album ‘Glory Bound’ in the guise of one of the best fuck-you songs around: ‘The Devil Is Your Only Friend’. Such a strong set opener not only because it kicks ass, but it also highlights the playing skills of each of the band, especially the sublime guitar work of lead guitarist Henry James and the crucial keyboard sounds coming from the ever-smiling Steve Maggiora. With most UK fans connecting with the band through a set at Ramblin’ Man Fair and the worldwide release of the last two aforementioned studio albums, tonight’s setlist is a lesson in how to construct a well-thought-out setlist and how to pace a set. Cornerstone moments are dotted throughout the evening; the first of which is the arrival of the Allmans-tinged ‘Do You Remember?’ – the early airing of such a banger serving to highlight just how strong an arsenal of songs The Wreck actually has, and the sweet twin guitar melodies from James and Burrison are still lingering on even now.
Legend has it that both Greg Allman and Dickey Betts distanced themselves from the “Southern Rock” term, Betts being especially vocal as he reportedly felt that the term was “limiting”. Simply calling Robert Jon & The Wreck “Southern Rock” acts in much the same way, it limits the band and rather than turn yourself inside out trying to categorise the band, just enjoy the music. A perfect example of the band being more than just Southern Rock would be the Doo-Wop swing of ‘Work It Out’ which has the crowd screaming out the lighter-than-light chorus, and in the areas where the crowd can actually move, random outbreaks of dancing can be seen. It is Friday night, and people are determined to have a good time one way or another, and Robert Jon & The Wreck are providing the soundtrack. The connection between the band and the crowd is right there for all to see; especially during more cornerstone moments like ‘Tired Of Drinking Alone’, the beautiful ‘Oh Miss Carolina’, and the soul-drenched, booty-shaking ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ which might have been birthed in California, but was conceived in Chicago.
As touched on earlier, the standard of the playing on offer tonight was out of this world, and in a venue renowned for putting on blues acts, there are a lot of punters who will lose themselves in what the guitarists are doing, and tonight they have two mighty fine guitarists to study. Henry James is the discovery of the last few years so far, and such is the strength, and depth of his playing…when he steps up to take a solo – all eyes are on him.
Robert Jon & The Wreck offer up an intriguing quandary for those who have already gotten on board the train, on one hand, you want as many people to enjoy the band, but on the other, you want to keep them a secret so that you can catch them up close and personal like this, for surely as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, Robert Jon & The Wreck are destined for bigger venues.
Robert Jon & The Wreck play the London Garage on Sunday 15th May 2022. Tickets – www.alttickets.com/robert-jon-the-wreck-tickets.
Review – Dave
Troy Redfern – Colin Campbell
Robert Jon & The Wreck – Phil Honley
All images supplied by Noble PR