Friday evening saw the When Rivers Meet VW Camper Van roll into KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton as Special Guests on the Reef Triple Bill. You can read our Reef report here.
When Rivers Meet
KK’s Steel Mill – 30 June 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
Having seen them in many guises, it was immediately obvious this evening how much more ‘attack’ they had in their approach. Whether this was due to the nature of the bill, playing in front of an unfamiliar audience, the size of the stage, or the apparent direction of the newer material, one can only surmise.
But their dynamic approach was most effective and should stand them in good stead as they are soon promoted to play larger venues on their own terms.
Positively flying out of the traps, Play My Game is the first of the new releases and may well be indicative of a somewhat harder sound seeing as it appears to bridge that gap between classic and blues rock. Already, as always, Grace was demonstrating undeniably perfect pitch.
“In the second part of history, life turned into a mystery, and the world seemed to turn upside down.” A wonderful opening line, however, it’s the many contagions in their choruses that makes their work so infectious, with Never Coming Home being a shining example.
“Any Law Breakers in the house?” enquired Grace as Aaron immediately launched into that now familiar riff of Did I Break The Law’ Such was her increasing confidence, Grace was now prowling across every inch of the stage.
“We’ve waited a long time for this. So good to finally be here. Time for the Cigar Box.” The swamp blues call and response of Innocence Of Youth contrast strikingly with the cadenced refrain of “Now I know what’s wrong, I can feel it in my bones.” Going back to the ‘attack’, here it struck me just how more animated Aaron was than I had seen him previously.
Grace breaks out the Electric Mandolin for My Baby Says He Loves Me and later delivers an exceptional Mandolin Solo – yes, you did read that correctly.
The folk-influenced Harmonies between Grace and Aaron worked so deliciously well. Was it me, or did I hear a subtle nod to Waterloo Sunset in the Coda? If so, it was one of many influences contained within this deceptively intricate piece.
All the instrumentation, boosted by the mandolin once more, combined perfectly on the hugely rhythmic intro to Battleground. No wonder “The Ground Shaked Hard.” The beat on Free Man was reminiscent of many a ’70s Glam Rock classic and was a superb demonstration of the shift James was putting in on the drums.
Walking on the Wire saw the unlikely amalgamation of the ‘swampy’ guitar and the almost ethereal sound of the mandolin. This diverse pairing worked so well. Don’t you just love it when such creative minds experiment and think outside of the box (guitar).
“This is our newest song. It is off the new album, which comes out in September.” On record, Perfect Stranger has a more complex arrangement and live, the chorus has a very grinding riff that ventures into hard rock territory. Another indication of the new direction?
“Let’s play another song, honey.” And so it was that Lost & Found was to be their finale. Like so many of their numbers, they do not shy away from a recurring refrain and “Run Run, Run for your Life’ married again to a hammering riff is a memorable way to finish.
Given their current status, 45 minutes does seem a short set, given the depth and textures of the material at their disposal. However, as a ‘showcase’, it worked perfectly.
One cannot help but wonder if a reason for their renewed vitality is producer Adam Bowers who was also performing bass duties. From across the stage, he mirrored Aaron’s energy.
To put it into footballing terms, this feels somewhat like Pre-Season, undertaking this short trek with Reef as well as a multitude of Festival appearances. Things will get serious once Aces Are High is released, together with its accompanying tour.
If the number of sold-out dates on this Spring’s jaunt is any indication, this will no doubt see them play larger capacity venues and thoroughly deserved it is too. Standby for ignition.