REVIEW BY JANET HARDING – IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
As The Lights Dim The Band Assembles On Stage, And The Intro To ‘All You Ever Wanted’ Begins
It’s a cold wintry night in November. Parking up by the Anglican Cathedral up on Mount Pleasant, we’re back in Liverpool again. I love coming to Liverpool for live music events, but tonight’s is something special, a particularly good one…..Rag n Bone Man…..Enough said.
It’s a busy Thursday night in the Georgian district of this musically vibrant city; we make our way down the historic streets, past the stunning neo-classical, townhouse mansions, and past the old Liverpool Art School. Turning down past ‘Paddy s Wigwam’, the affectionate local term for the Roman Catholic Cathedral, we are met by hordes of Rag n Bone Man fans, queuing down the street and round the corner, all eagerly awaiting this long-overdue live performance – Rag n Bone Man has never performed in Liverpool on tour in the past. Tonight’s venue is Mountford Hall, the Students Union. It’s a great venue and many huge names have played here, tonight’s being no exception.
As we enter the performance area, it’s already filling up nicely. People are excited, and rightly so. This ‘Life by Misadventure’ tour has been eagerly awaited by fans and critics alike, the album of the same name, having being released earlier this year (May 2021) and is the follow up to the 2017 debut album ‘Human’.
First support – Max White
Our first support for tonight is Max White. It’s an acoustic set and is very well received. The crowd is happy. Stripped back, slow tempo and very well executed, Max (White) came across as very likeable, and interacted with the crowd between songs, full of confidence, which really comes across when he s singing. All original songs, and great earthy tones to his voice, but high and vibrant on occasions too. Full of smiles, this ‘cheeky chappie’ type warned the crowd up superbly well. Great voice, great set
Second support – Emily Burns
Next up is Emily Burns. Another acoustic set, but with a completely different feel. With a stunning voice, this has a more folk, indie feel. Great guitar and lots of range in her voice. Emily (Burns) was on point throughout. Another great success with the audience. By now, this venue is packed to the rafters, even the refectory is busy, and people are standing on chairs out there to see in. We are all eagerly awaiting what’s to come.
Headliner – Rag n Bone Man
As the lights dim the band assembles on stage, and the intro to ‘All you ever wanted’ begins. The crowd go wild, then as the Rag n Bone Man himself arrives on stage, the energy from the audience surges. London based (originally from Uckfield), real name Rory Graham, Rag n Bone Man’s presence on stage is certainly felt – not only huge in musical greatness, but in person too, with his 6ft 5 build and his trade mark tattoos and beard. There seems to be an aura about him. Stood centrally, between the simple black and white drapings of the stage set, next to his backing vocalists, he commands this crowd. The music is rousing, almost gospel like, and when he begins to sing it’s incredible: very upbeat, with jangly guitars, Rory (Graham) cites the inspiration behind the song, reminiscing about how cities he grew up in have now become soulless, remembering how London and Brighton had cool places that aren’t there anymore, the venues he attended whist growing up – his romanticised version of dumpy little ‘spit and sawdust ‘venues and clubs – all now long gone. His voice is impeccable. It actually gives you goose bumps.
There has been allot of anticipation over this tour. The long awaited album ‘Life by Misadventure’ – which I might add is quite some album – debuted at number one in the UK album charts, its sales hitting over 42,000, making it the fastest selling solo album of this year to date. It has a mixture of themes, alternating from love and loss, becoming a father, and isolation. It’s utterly from the heart, very honest and personal. During tonight’s performance, the slower, more ballad feeling numbers are very moving. Rory (Graham) has a way of expressing and communicating his pain and emotion via his voice. You can feel his hurt, you feel almost connected to him somehow. Between songs he politely gives thanks, but keeps the small talk very small. It’s obvious he’s very shy, and much prefers the actual performing to the chit chat.
The new material has a different feel from previous work. Written and recorded in Nashville, you can hear a country influence for sure. There a very sad and melancholy feel throughout and he refers to this himself, warning that ‘if you came here tonight to be cheered up ,for the most part that won’t happen.’ During most songs, the venue is a sea of mobile phones, held up with the torch lights on, arms all swaying in time to these heartfelt pieces. You feel a sense of vulnerability in his voice, this huge figure, dominating centre stage, but the expressions within his voice show past humility, real hurt and pain. All songs were written on an acoustic guitar and Rory (Graham) wanted to give the songs time to ‘breathe’so he could live with them before production. ‘Fall in love again’ details self sabotage; it’s very atmospheric and moody. The album as a whole is about tough and crazy teenage years, becoming a dad, then as a dad being worried about the future of the world he’s brought his son into. This definitely translates into the music and I think we can all feel this through his performance tonight. Of course huge legendary hits like ‘Human’ and ‘Skin’ are performed. His impressive baritone voice is rich, loud and full of expression. Very soulful and such a huge vocal range, the notes reached are spine tingling.
Going all out, bringing in added trumpet, tonight’s performance is brought to a close, with the finale…’Giant’, by far the biggest crowd pleaser of the night (though none have been anything but). It’s alive, people are dancing, singing, clapping, it’s a joyous end to an emotional performance. I’ve spoken to fans tonight, who after seeing last week’s Manchester show, were so moved and wowed by Rory (Graham) that they have come back tonight for more. We’ve certainly witnessed something special tonight. The new album certainly may have a different feel, but in my opinion, different is good. It’s expressive, genuine, deep and very personal, translating perfectly into live performance. It’s been a mixture of rousing, moving, uplifting and electrifying. A performance that will not be forgotten in a long time, and a great experience. Creatively and musically this album is right up there with the debut, and performance-wise, tonight has been spectacular. Thank you Rag n Bone Man.
All you ever wanted
Fall in love again
Time will tell
Somewhere along the way
Changing of the guard
Anywhere from here
Talking to myself
Be the man
Party s over
FOLLOW RAG AND BONE MAN
FOLLOW EMILY BURNS
FOLLOW MAX WHITE
Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals