By Mark Lear, Rock At Night Manchester
Live Review: Brave Rival – The Giffard Arms, Wolverhampton-September 24, 2022
Now, the thing about this job is that you can get sent to some places that you just might not choose to go into, if you had a choice, and I have to admit that The Gifford Arms might just have been one of those places, especially when the first thing you see, when you walk through the door, are the table’s shaped like coffin lids – in fact, they might actually have been coffin lids once – but what happened to the rest of the box or the body therein, we’ll leave for another day. I am professional. I have driven 40 miles to get here. I have come to see a band that comes highly recommended and I shall follow through with my mission, and so at the chosen hour of ten, Brave Rival appear on stage.
Now, there are no half-measures with these five as as they hit you with everything at full bore straight from the off. The first tune, ‘Heart Attack’ leaves you in no doubt where this is going and that you’re in for a night full of powerful, harmonised vocals with passion and attitude in equal measure from the front two, some big riffs from the six-stringer, all held together with a sound back line consisting of a five string bass and a lass on skins – and who doesn’t love a band with a lass on skins.
‘Secrets’ and ‘Guilty Love’ follow which give the bass and drums a chance to show what they’re capable of with funky intros and a solid backbeat poking through those vocals and guitar solos – there when you really want them and blending into the background when the others need to shine.
By now, you’re beginning to wonder just how much of this album is based on real life experiences because if it is, said members of this band have made some pretty bad choices when it comes to men / women / other and they’re calling on all of their past lives with these lyrics, not least with Song No. 5 ‘Thin Ice’ (blimey, I went all Eurovision then !) which is the bands latest single and it requires audience participation, and it also carries the hook line of ‘you’re no good for me, your temporary’. This takes seconds to learn, but it’s then fixed in your head for the journey home – you don’t know that at the time but believe me it is.
‘Long Time Coming’ gives the crowd a bit of a breather but the ladies blast their way through with another power ballad that includes a few vocal athletics thrown in for good measure. The long, slow, drawn out harmonies show passion – you can see how they’re influenced by Heart – and is one of those songs where the back line get all refined and delicate. Perfect.
Chloe explains that the next tune is about ‘someone who just pisses you off’, (don’t mince your words, Chlo’) and she wasn’t kidding as ‘Fool of You’ tells you everything you need to know in the title – except that musically there’s another funky bass line included and elements of gospel mixed in nicely with the soul.
I started to get the feeling that they’ve played here before as it had a friends and family feel about it, especially when a couple of lasses from the audience get on stage as a reward to singing every song word perfect by all accounts, and being dressed in leopard print, (as were the front two – lead singers uniform, by all accounts). It’s then that you find out that people had travelled far and wide, well, Bilston, Wednesbury and Shrewsbury anyway, based on the bands previous ventures into the darkest West Midlands. You know you’re on to something good when people travel to see you.
‘Break Me’ slows things a down again (you do need to get your breath back with this band every couple of songs for health and safety purposes as it really is ‘full on’)! Before ‘Run and Hide’, which includes the lyrics ‘You’ll never give me what I need’ causes me to wonder as to which band member this one is about. I’m not sure but what I do know is that you get a big chunk of power drumming with accents and fills aplenty. Nice. Everything up to now has been bluesy and soulful and gospelly (is that even a word?) but not to be left out Donna gets all rocky showing that she’s not going to be left out of the power battle that’s been going on up front.
‘The Letter’ is next and we steer away from the album only for the second time, with the same solid vocal interplay and harmonies that have been with us throughout, bringing a 60 year old song right back up to date. And then we get to the final track ‘What’s Your Name Again’ which has probably got every band members name on it (how very dare I ?) as well as the audience’s and half of Birminghams to boot. In fact looking round the audience I’d even go as far to say that the following morning, it actually happened a few times here, as we hear the tale of a one night stand, fuelled by way too much alcohol and the thoughts that suddenly go through your head when you wake up and find that you have no idea who you’re lying next to. Whoever came up with this as subject matter for a song, I salute you.
Reading this back I realise that I’ve paid compliments to every member of the band except the guitar player – and this is unfair – because every tune has contained a quite brilliant piece of guitar playing that breaks through the harmonies just at the right time and compliments every song. You should be proud of yourself Ed. I didn’t leave you out Fella, I just thought you should get a mention all to yourself as you’re outnumbered by two front ladies and a twin backline.
So, with the show over I head back home. North. Glad that I saw past the coffin shaped tables and any reservations I might have had. The venue was good, the crowd made it better and the band lived up to everything that I’d heard about them. This is one, tight knit band, where everyone plays their part well, for themselves and for the rest of the band.
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