Review: When Rivers Meet – Oran Mor, Glasgow

One of the most pleasing aspects of the last few years – as difficult as they have been – has been the steady rise of blues/rock/Americana duo When Rivers Meet. The husband and wife team of Grace and Aaron Bond use the internet and social media in such a masterful way that the School of Rock is currently putting together an entire semester devoted to them entitled “How to find an audience, and build a community the When Rivers Meet way”. Through regular Facebook live streams, and keeping fans in the loop through innovative use of a bulging email database, WRM has successfully managed to retain a grassroots vibe while growing its fanbase on a day-to-day basis; a fact backed up by multiple shows on their current ‘Flying Free’ UK tour selling out way in advance. It helps though that both albums released to date from When Rivers Meet have been utterly compelling and worthy of their places in the collection of any self-respecting fan of good music, regardless of genre.

Troy Redfern, When Rivers MeetThe When Rivers Meet tour bus parked up outside Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End for a gig that would end a three-date run of shows on consecutive nights, before a short break beckoned with the tour restarting in London on May 12th. Opening act for the tour? That would be the in-demand guitar-slinger Troy Redfern.

Having opened for The Quireboys late last year in full band mode, Redfern is back to the stripped-back approach that opened shows for both Robert Jon and The Wreck, and the Sweet last year. With an early curfew looming, there is zero time for faffing around and Troy makes the most of his short thirty-minute set; packing so much into it (including a guitar firework-laden cover of ‘Voodoo Chile’), that you would swear it was longer. If you have caught Redfern in concert before, then you will no doubt have stood slack-jawed over his incendiary playing almost as much as you would have over his gorgeous guitars, and tonight is no different, especially when Troy jokes that instead of introducing his band, he will introduce his guitars. His guitar playing is – as it always is – on another level, and slide guitar purists in the audience are drooling as he peels off one incredible lick after another. Material comes mostly from his recent album ‘The Fire Cosmic’, and it’s a joy to witness first-hand how much of a monster that both ‘Waiting For Your Love’, and ‘Sanctify’ have grown into. Job done and a quick trip to Timpsons is on the cards to replace the heel on his left boot which took an almighty battering tonight as, with no drummer on hand, Redfern seemed determined to strike oil by hammering his boot down in time to the music at every opportunity.

When Rivers Meet

It’s a fairly reliable litmus test of how good a show is going to be when the headline act takes to the stage and they cannot stop smiling. You just know that what follows is going to be something special. And that’s exactly what happened once Thunder’s classic ‘Love Walked In’ faded out and one by one When Rivers Meet took their position on stage. For artists playing their first-ever Glasgow show, on their first-ever headline tour, and their first lengthy tour playing with a band alongside them, When Rivers Meet are treated like local heroes returning home after conquering all territories known to man. So much so that Grace Bond comments later on; “From Facebook live streams and playing to five people in a pub…to this!”, and even the blackest of black hearts would struggle not to be moved by her excitement and a mile-wide perma-smile strong enough to power the national grid for the rest of the year. Who needs energy fatcats when Grace Bond is in town?

When Rivers Meet

Once the applause dies down – and Grace manages to stop smiling – the band launch into set-opener ‘Did I Break The Law’ and kick off what turned out to be a flawless ninety-minute set. Most fans of the duo would have been curious to hear how the material that normally only Grace and Aaron perform live, sounds with a live band performing alongside them. In short, the answer to that would be…bloody magnificent. The power, and standard of playing from all on stage are at times staggering, and you could be forgiven in thinking that these four musicians have been playing together for years rather than months. ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’ is just one such example of how big the material sounds with a band, on this occasion almost a Zeppelin-like groove, and at several times during the set, Aaron could be found along with bassist extraordinaire Roger Inniss (thEROGINNISSZONE – love it!) locking into a groove in front of James Fox’s drum kit (Fox proves that men can actually multitask as he also doubles up as keyboard player, hence he is known as the “Modern One Man Band”). Although this is very much Grace and Aaron Bond’s show, the band looks and plays like a band in the truest sense, so much so that when Inniss puts his vast experience on display for all to see – with an extended six-string bass solo/jam with Fox – Grace is alongside him dancing away, lost in the music, and with that ever-present smile showing zero chance of diminishing.

When Rivers Meet

Grace is a revelation. Whether she is singing, playing the mandolin, or a violin, or dancing next to Roger Inniss during his bass solo, it is near-impossible to take your eyes off her. It is hard to resist when you see how much it means to an artist that people have made the effort to buy a ticket and come along to the show. When she goes walkabout through the crowd during ‘We Fly Free’ it is a heartwarming sight watching her interacting with the crowd and spreading the good vibes. Believe me, no one left this show without a smile on their face. The walkabout was just one highlight in an evening of many; Aaron’s stunning guitar playing (especially his slide work, and of course, the cigar-box guitar), the strobe-filled crescendo of ‘He’ll Drive You Crazy’, and ‘Lost & Found’ (dedicated to Thunder) are a few that spring to mind. But the neck hair-raising moment had to be when Grace and Aaron performed a gorgeous version of ‘Bury My Body’ as a duo, Grace and her violin stealing the show. The obvious chemistry between Grace and Aaron is there for all to see and when they strip it all back to just the two of them sharing a mic, you could have heard a pin drop.

When Rivers Meet

‘Want Your Love’ brings the main set to an end and the band takes their bows, the curfew is almost upon us and with the assurance of one more song, they launch into a faster-than-normal version of ‘Testify’ in order to complete the song before the plug is pulled. Once the last notes fade out, there is enough time for another bow before When Rivers Meet leave the stage with the adulation from an adoring crowd ringing in their ears. A set that can only be described as ”life-affirming”. Miss this band at your peril.

Review – Dave

All images – Callum Scott Photography

Remaining tour dates:

London The Garage
Thursday May 12
Birmingham, The Asylum Venue
Friday May 13
Saturday 14 May (Sold Out)
Thursday May 19 (Sold Out)
Bristol Exchange
Friday May 20
Saturday May 21 (Sold Out)
May Thursday 26
Nottingham The Bodega
Friday 27 May (Sold Out)
Ticket information, here.

 

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