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When Rivers Meet + Arielle

Saturday 6th May 2023

Lafayette, London

I first heard WRM live when they were playing WeyFest two years ago, and the sound was awful. It was some time during lockdown/no lockdown/oh lockdown again, I was sitting in a friend’s back garden a mile away and the sound was wafting along the Wey valley.

There was no doubt the music was great though!

This time, the Lafayette beckons - a funky little venue near King’s Cross, easy to reach but quirky to navigate inside. It’s spread across at least three floors, with various bars, connecting passageways and stairs and the auditorium. What you find is anyone’s guess until you open the door, which just makes it more fun.

The crowd had been warmed up very nicely by the support act, Arielle, and were ready to rock (©WrinklyClichesInc).

The band stroll purposefully on stage, seeming as eager to give as we are to receive.

We are not disappointed.

With a spacey intro we are headlong into The Music, and they barely relent for the full duration.
The band’s trademark solid, driving sound and sublimated but definite vocals makes them stand out from so many other bands, who can often end up just sounding muddy.

Quick resume of the personnel – Grace Bond is leading lady, covering vocals, violin and mandolin, with husband Aaron on guitars and backing vocals, while bassist Adam Bowers and drummer James Fox lay down a beat so solid you could build houses on it.

The pace slows a bit with ‘Never Coming Home’, Grace’s vocals sliding up and down to complement Aaron’s slide guitar, rocking straight into ‘Did I Break the Law?’ then ‘Take Me to The River’, where Grace dons a funky little guitar to play slide.

Slowing only for guitar swaps, we thunder through ‘Take Me To The River’, ‘Remember My Name’, ‘Free Man’, ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’, ‘I Want Your Love’…. It’s full-on!

It’s at this point you realise that although they’re fairly recent to the music spotlight (first EP released in 2019, second EP and two albums in 2020), almost the entire set is rockers, rollers, belters or anthems that you’ve heard all over the radio and know most of the words to…. but they still manage to sound fresh.

Their popularity is easy to understand – the whole band are seamless on stage, working it – owning it – and engaging easily with the audience in banter and chit-chat, creating a great synergy.

The Bonds are the basis of this – they have a great chemistry on stage, Grace flirting with Aaron and him smiling back at her during some of the smoochier numbers (God knows how he maintains his concentration during ‘Do You Like What You See?’!), but it’s like being with friends who have a lot of love and respect for each other, it never gets tacky.

They close the main set with new single ‘Perfect Stranger’ and ‘Testify’, with the whole band - the whole audience! - joining in with the chorus.

An encore of ‘He’ll Drive You Crazy’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ leaves everybody happy, band and punters.

If you’re looking for a gig to get you up and rocking, feeling like part of the band, with a singalong and a sensible ticket price, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option – but be quick!

When Rivers Meet are bloody good - end of.

There’s an amazing system to help you listen to new music - whether it’s new bands in your favourite style, or bands playing a style you might not normally choose yourself.

It’s called ‘The Support Act’ and it usually functions very well.

I had a lovely surprise when the opening act tonight was a young lady called Arielle. She’s bright (music and personality), has a good voice, is a great musician, and her music is that Folk-Rock-Pop blend which was the norm in ‘the charts’ in the late 60s through mid-70s.

You could swear you had ‘that song’ somewhere if you went through your CSN/Johnny Cash /mid-period Tom Petty /Wishbone Ash albums. That’s not to say her music isn’t original - it all is - just that you can hear her influences sprinkled throughout.

A breezy (nervous!) intro and the first song is ’73’, which lives up to its name. Arielle has a ’73 VW camper, which she obviously adores, and it’s the focus of her latest album. The album generally takes you back to that period, when the world was all faded colour photos, vehicles needed tinkering and people weren’t in a rush - this would be on the cassette player.

She apparently favours an orange and blue Fender Explorer, but closer inspection shows Brian May Guitars make it under her own label, quite a credential in its own right. This partnership started when May chose her to play a part in his We Will Rock You! musical.

Only a few bars in and she proves she’s as good as anybody else out there - a toppy 60s/70s sound, plenty of fuzz, occasional use of wah, Rock, Blues and Metal riffs, and up and down the fretboard like a woman possessed. I’m at the front and some of the chord shapes she’s making are astounding. This lady definitely rocks!

Her band tonight are Sam Tooley on bass and Emma Daley on drums. They were at Guildford School of Music together and they are so tight - hard to believe they had one practice session with Arielle and this is their fourth gig!

The problem with the power trio is the empty spaces - too many and the sound is bleak, too much noise and it’s fussy. Arielle’s compositions allow them to keep a good groove going while she sings, and freestyle a bit when she solos.

A few numbers in, Arielle breaks out her acoustic and the Nashville sound, where her Texan twang sounds right at home. Then we’re back into the electric/eclectic stuff - a song that could be a Tom Petty number, a Funk-rocker, the acoustic curve-ball Celtic song written while in Ireland, and an Eagles type groove for the finale.

Arielle has had the early break, lost it all, sorted herself out, spent time with some top-flight bands and spent some time in the UK. It can’t take much more exposure before she’s headlining in her own right. Her albums are also available on vinyl, in keeping with her sound. Go buy!

Set List:

Voices In My Head
Weakness For You
Rescue Me
Magick Again
Genie’s Outta The Bottle

Adam Buttery

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