Live Review: Dry the River (Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, 16/10/12)

This is a live review written by myself for CRITICAL WAVE on 17th October 2012.

Dry the River (photo by ‘Egghead06’ at Wikipedia)

In an unusual move, opening act Drawings were joined onstage by tonight’s headliners. From here on, the night doesn’t get anymore conventional.

Showing off the sheer power of his vocal cords, an apology from the supporters’ frontman Matthew Reynolds, to the audience reaches the back of the room without his microphone. “I know that we’re louder than Dry the River, but can you forgive us for that?” A resounding ‘yeah!’ from the sold out venue says that the audience is listening.

Supporter number two Arcane Roots may not have had the courtesy to offer such an apology, but that’s certainly not to say that they were shy. They took to the stage to a deceptively calm and quiet hum as singer Andrew Groves almost whispering his vocals. However, one verse later, there was a sudden, sonic punch to the gut that wouldn’t end for the next thirty minutes.

So, just how much quieter would Dry the River be? As it turns out… not very, if at all. Wherever the guitars backed off a bit, the addition of Will Harvey’s violin took its place.

For every cool and calm moment, there was a scream to compensate for it. For each heart-wrenchingly reclusive moment, such as ‘History Book’, there was a feedback frenzy, such as ‘Lion’s Den’. The latter used almost every grand finale cliché in the book (only missing a shattered guitar), with a medley of riffs and pummeling cymbals and drums right until the final crash, only to be followed by another cool and calm guitar singalong.

Similarly, the band’s onstage banter alternated from innocent thanks and how nice it was to return to Portsmouth, to the rather blunt “look at you beautiful motherfuckers!” as guitarist Peter Liddle took a photograph of the crowd.

The night’s closure was as interactive as a concert can be. Following in the footsteps of Drawings, the band ditched their microphones and amps, but took things a step further – off the stage itself to perform closer ‘Shaker Hymns’ in the middle of the crowd. The hundreds in attendance stood in silence and used their camera phones as periscopes to see what was going on, followed by a cheer, a ‘thank you Portsmouth’ and a final goodnight.

After seeing the band performing within the crowd, the mess that the gig had been, suddenly made sense. What began as a concert, had become a social event – almost a party, albeit a disappointingly short 60 minutes one, kindly hosted by Dry the River. Tonight was a shambles, but in the best possible way.


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