Robert Jon & The Wreck Are Sensational At The Wardrobe

I’m late to the party, I’ll admit. This is the third UK tour for Robert Jon & The Wreck in the last two years, and having been told by most of my muso friends to check them out, I finally get the chance at The Wardrobe (which is bigger than it sounds) in Leeds.

Robert Jon & The Wreck – Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast

The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023

Words and Photography: John Hayhurst/Snapagig

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

Looking across the filled room, it is definitely the older classic rock crowd here. There are plenty of recognisable beardy faces from Blackberry Smoke or The Sheepdogs gigs from the recent past, and everyone is anticipating another great night of Southern-flavoured rock’ n’ roll (and yes, I know The Sheepdogs are Canadian). 

Robert Jon & The Wreck open with Pain No More, and already guitarist Henry James is asserting himself with some killer breaks and some tasty twin guitars with lead singer Robert Jon Burrison. Think Grateful Dead at their Honkytonk finest and The Allmans at their duelling best.

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

Robert Jon & The Wreck straddle somewhere in-between at times, but always with integrity and honesty of their musical roots. It’s a great thing to witness such a big sound in a small venue. All we can do is nod our heads, tap our feet, punch the air, and offer a “hell yeah” every now and then.

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

Jake Abernathie on keys and Warren Murrel on bass are so happy to be here, with the biggest, widest smiles, and in Jake’s case, the more psychedelic t-shirts. You can’t beat a swirling Hammond organ sound on a Southern Rock track, and they are quick to point out to Robert Jon that he had missed out Tired Of Drinking Alone when he’s already introducing Ride Into The Light as the title track of their new album. 

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

The slide guitar work from Henry James is just sublime, together with delicate piano from Jake, overlaid with some deep rough vocals from Robert Jon. This was becoming a performance not seen in these parts since The Black Crowes played the Town and Country Club just up the road. 

There is a Black Crow on the drum kit, too. I’m now wondering if there is a connection here that I’m not aware of. They certainly like to switch up the setlists on this tour (which was a Crowes trait, too) and Rescue Train gets an airing tonight and is most welcome at this point. 

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

The extensive jamming on this track live is just the reason to be here tonight. Whether it is that swirling Hammond or the killer slide and soloing from virtuoso Henry James, we get around eight and a half minutes of pure southern blues, and it goes down a storm with the faithful.

Another biggie from the new album Bring Me Back Home Again totally rocks before a break in the tempo for the balladeer anthem of Gold, another switch from recent setlists, and only played twice on this tour since March. This was refreshing to hear and really showed the range that they have in their locker.

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

Oh, Miss Carolina followed, and I think there would have been a riot if they hadn’t played this stand-out tune from the Last Light On The Highway album. It prompted one of the biggest singalong chorus moments with fists punching the air. A totally wholesome song, and with that, we knew we were on the home straight. 

However, there was still Cold Night to be had, and this felt like the greatest song the Allmans never wrote. After nearly 15 minutes of duelling twin guitars and jamming with some blissful piano, thumping bass and drums, I’m in some kind of ’70s jam band heaven and honestly didn’t want this to stop.

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

Shine A Light On Me Brother was the encore, and whilst it’s a great soulful tune, it lacked that extended jam experience we had witnessed just before the break. I think they should switch it up and make Cold Night the final tune. 

Either way, the hour or so went by so quickly I was checking the remaining dates to see if I could make another one before they leave for mainland Europe and cursing myself for not checking them out two years ago. 

Robert Jon & The Wreck - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Robert Jon & The Wreck – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

These kinds of evenings don’t come around very often, and a band like Robert Jon & The Wreck only come around every decade or so. Catch them now before you have to pay lots of money to Ticketmaster for that Royal Albert Hall gig in 2026.

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast

Before that, though, I always make sure I’m early for the support, and tonight, Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast brought some soulful and very powerful vocals. Matched with some superb guitar playing from Aaron Austin, they even dared to cover Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll during their stunning support slot. 

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

This was a match made in musical heaven. Caitlin herself wastes no time in demonstrating those powerful pipes with opener Half Asleep, and if smoky, gravely female vocals are what you are after, then look no further. 

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023.
Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

An emotionally charged Haunted By You brings tears to one woman on the front row, and when an unexpected mobile phone ring interrupts the climax of the song, Caitlin is the quickest to incorporate, “Oh, I hope that’s you calling” into the song. 

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

A brilliant moment and that track was the stand out for me. It was full of the right feels and ensured that their merch table had a long queue for shirts and a chat with the band during the interval.

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

They breezed through a couple more tunes and even had some serious audience participation for the rockier Operator. Then, as they thanked the audience one more time, the opening drum salvo for Rock And Roll was heard, and the place erupted. 

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast are coming back to the UK next year, so watch out for those dates real soon.

Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast - The Wardrobe, Leeds - 21 September 2023
Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast – The Wardrobe, Leeds – 21 September 2023. Photo: Snapagig/MetalTalk

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