Let’s not romanticise lockdown, it was a dark period. However, good things can happen despite challenging events and if lockdown didn’t occur it’s unlikely that we would be enjoying tonight’s When Rivers Meet and Troy Redfern performances now.
When Rivers Meet – Troy Redfern
The Garage, London 12 May 2022
Words: Liz Medhurst
Photography: Steve Ritchie
When Rivers Meet have been performing and writing together for a long while, yet only really discovered their contemporary blues niche a few years ago. Treading the boards of the UK blues scene in 2019 saw traction quickly gaining before the pandemic put a halt to proceedings.
Undeterred they turned to weekly live streaming, which hit a sweet spot and hugely grew their audience. The first album, We Fly Free, was released in late 2020 and consolidated the band’s rapid rise, further solidified by Saving Grace a year later.
This London stop of their seventeen date UK tour was well attended, well-received and showed how the band are worthy of the many plaudits and awards picked up over the last couple of years.
First, though, we have the delight of opener Troy Redfern, the cosmic cowboy. He’s also wrestled a benefit out of lockdown by delivering an astonishing five albums, his latest recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales with an impressive cast.
Tonight he performed solo, making up for a lack of personnel with a plethora of loops and dirty riffs, filling every corner of the space right from the off with the opener Scorpio.
This was delta blues brought into the space age, hard and heavy, cut with a diamond steel, and layered with almost supernatural vibes in a frantic yet controlled display. There are two vintage guitars, around 90 years old – a National Resonator and a Dobro from 1929 and 1935.
If guitars could talk these would probably raise two fingers to retirement and revel in their current deployment as if born for it.
The slide-heavy six-song set ended with an extended version of Voodoo Chile which saw many twists, turns and tricks. Indulgent, but marvellously so.
When Rivers Meet are used to playing as a duo, Grace Bond on vocals, mandolin and fiddle, and Aaron Bond on guitars and vocals. but for this tour they are out with a full band, bringing along James Fox on drums and keys and Roger Iniss on bass. This filled their sound out brilliantly, starting the evening with a driving Did I Break The Law and keeping up the standard throughout.
By the time Battleground was reached the band had hit their stride, from here relaxing into different styles and tempos with ease.
There is versatility and variety in the style of blues on their recorded output, and there was plenty of light and shade in tonight’s set, which saw them at their best in upbeat classic contemporary blues-rock such as Lost And Found which was a real highlight.
This confluence of Grace’s pure-toned voice and Aaron’s imaginative guitar playing and complementary harmonies has become a winning formula. Their energy is fresh and warm yet is still able to hit deep emotions.
Things slowed right down with the gospel-tinged Bury My Body which saw the duo – a couple off stage as well as on – harmonise gazing deep into each other’s eyes while sharing the mike. It could have been a horribly sickly moment, but they pulled it off.
The ’30s Southern blues and country influence could be seen with the appearance of a cigar-box guitar for Friend Of Mine, adding yet another texture to the show. The band have plenty of personality and aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves, indulging in an audience walkabout on We Fly Free and plenty of banter.
Grace was carrying a Stevie Nicks vibe in places tonight, although it is sincerely hoped that the clearly loved up couple don’t succumb to Fleetwood Mac-style marital woes in the future, that’s one script that’s ready to be re-written.
The main set came to a close with an engaging multi-faceted Want Your Love, the four musicians all shining, keeping up the strength and feeling throughout.
This Flying Free tour is shaping up to be a giant success and it’s fascinating to think about what may happen in the future if they push boundaries. For now, modern blues appears to be in safe hands, this was a great pairing of acts and a thoroughly satisfactory evening.