By Chris Patmore and Amanda Cunningham, Rock At Night London Correspondents
Venue: The Water Rats, London-April 2, 2016–Broken Witt Rebels, Naropa, Liberty Ship, and Bright Young People
Since the Sixties, British bands such as The Beatles and The Stones, along with the likes of The Animals and The Yardbirds, took American music, or more specifically, black American music and the blues in particular, and put it into a package that was more acceptable to white American audiences. Over the last 50-plus years this transatlantic cultural exchange has continued, as musical genres diversified and mutated into hundreds of sub-genres and associated subcultures.
Young British band Broken Witt Rebels are continuing that tradition, bringing their take on a blues-soul inflected southern rock to UK audiences. The band, which hail from Birmingham (a city better known for its links to metal music, as the birth place of Ozzy and Black Sabbath – and Peaky Blinders), musically sound more like they are from the namesake city in Alabama, until they speak in the distinctive Brummy accent. BWR have been on Rock at Night’s radar for some time now and on Saturday night they played one of the best sets we have seen to date, at one of London’s legendary venues, The Water Rats, which has recently undergone a refurbishment.
The evening opened with the decidedly London indie rock sound of Naropa, followed by a high-energy set from Sheffield’s Liberty Ship featuring some fine acoustic guitar led harmonies that sounded like they’d be more at home in California sunshine than coming from a grey, northern England industrial city. They certainly warmed up the audience for what was clearly the main attraction.
BWR kicked off their set with “Low”, the opening track on their new EP Georgia Pine, a belting song with fantastic guitar riffs, a driving bass line and a chorus that sticks in your head, all with amazing vocals of Danny Core, who could easily be compared with late, great British blues singers Joe Cocker, Steve Marriot and Robert Palmer. It’s a voice that will undoubtedly draw lots of comparisons but it is also distinctly his own. “Low” definitely has hit record written all over it, if it can get some air play.
The band powered through their eight-song set with tracks off their first EP Howlin’ and their latest EP (self-released on April 15), along with two new songs, “Come On Over” and “God Knows”. Both EPs highlight the depth and maturity of their songwriting and playing, but the real test of a band’s mettle is in a live situation, and BWR have incredible stage presence. There is no doubt that vocalist Danny is the main focus, but this band is drum tight and clearly enjoy playing together, which accounts for the strength and energy of their live shows.
They are touring the UK during April promoting their new EP. They then support Brantley Grant on his UK tour in early May. Full details on the BWR website. This band is destined for big things, so catch them now.
The night closed with Bright Young People, a trio that brought the room back to basics with their raw garage grunge noise.
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