By Mark Lear, Rock At Night Manchester
Live Review: The Commoners & Troy Redfern-The Live Rooms, Chester ,UK
Back in October, last year, I went to cover Dare in Nottingham and therefore was expecting a night of stadium rock anthems from the 80’s. What I didn’t expect was a Support, in Troy Redfern, and a lesson in slide guitar and drums that damn near blew me away. Tonight, he takes headline status together with a bunch of Canadians, The Commoners.
The Commoners promise a sound with high-energy riffs, soulful vocals, and rich harmonies, and on this showing they more than delivered. Here to start a following mainly but also to promote their latest album ‘Find a Better Way’, they start off proceedings with ‘More Than Mistakes’, which is as punchy as they come with powerful drums backed by a delightful Hammond sound that defies the dinky Yamaha that it came out of.
They follow it up with the title track, ‘Find a Better Way’ which has an anthemic feel to it with an opening riff from Citrullo backed up by that dinky Yamaha again before Medhurst hits the vocals and it all comes together nicely. If Troy Redfern was the perfect opener for Dare, then The Commoners are paying that compliment back tenfold, and the good and kind people of Chester are really appreciative of it.
‘Devil Teasin’ Me’ is next before Citrullo excels himself with a violin bow on his guitar before unleashing an almighty instrumental before the vocals and harmonies take over on a tune that didn’t quite make the cut for the album (but should have done). ‘Body and Soul’ would have been more than worthy inclusion. Medhurst hopes Chester is ‘ready to rock as this one is going to be heavy’. He introduces the new single ‘Who Are You (Ain’t Knocked Down)’. Chester was ready and did, indeed, rock.
We then get a melancholy moment as drummer Cannon tells that he has lost his father whilst they’ve been on tour and that the next song ‘Naturally’ is dedicated to him. You really feel for the guy, and it makes you admire his playing all the more, as he hasn’t skipped a beat all night and has provided a solid backline together with Spillers bass. It leaves you with a bit of a lump in the throat and the lyrics having greater meaning than they might have done. Medhurst delivers them with passion and feeling with accents provided by that violin bow again and it leaves an indelible mark. Chester responds with a huge amount of appreciation.
The band openly admit that they’re heavily influenced by The Allman Brothers, and they pay homage with an excellent version of ‘Sweet Melissa’, with a long, drawn out intro and a pace that draws us out of the melancholy – but not too quickly. Bassist, Spiller takes his bow, this time with a solid back beat in complete control. Citrullo interjects with a rawness, just before that dinky Yamaha renters the fray, raising the subtlety levels just as Spiller properly picks up the pace and Medhurst hits those vocals with a mean attitude. The homage is done well. Very well in fact.
It’s only fair to point out that said ‘dinky Yamaha’ is driven by unofficial / official member Miles Evans Branagh who plays his part very well, hidden at the back of the stage and masked out most of the time by Spiller. A case of heard but not seen, you might say.
Now just when you think things are building up nicely to the obligatory crescendo, the mood is softened a little with ‘Hangin’ on Again’ – not too much though because we’re straight in with what is supposed to be our last tune. ‘Fill My Cup’ has single written all over it, with a catchy hook that draws you in and holds on tight until you give in.
And that as they say is that. We thought we were getting an encore (like everywhere else has on tour) but ‘we were robbed’. The boys take their bow and start to dismantle the gear ready for Redfern !
Rumours have it that they’ll be back in our green and pleasant land in October, which I hope is the case not least because we’re owed a final tune from this time. It may be acceptable behaviour to ‘miss one out’ in Toronto but here we do things a little differently. You are in our debt Commoners, and we trust that in five months’ time you’ll be honourable enough to pay it back. All that aside, I enjoyed every minute of it, and it was a very good start to the evening.
I spoke highly of Redfern six months ago when he appeared with half a dozen guitars, a heavy-duty drummer and a sound that led you to believe there were three times the amount of personnel on stage.
Said same drummer (Finn McAuley) is back in play tonight but this time we are treated to the addition of a bassist in the form of Keira Kenworthy who shops at the exact same clothing establishments as Redfern it would appear. How McAuley’s Hawaiianesque shirts fit into this though I have no idea, but as I’m not exactly known for my dress sense, I’ll let it pass.
We start with a new tune from Redfern’s forthcoming album ‘All Night Long’, which is definitely no Lionel Ritchie cover. It’s loud and heavy and a sign of things to come. ‘Sweet Carolina’ puts us back in familiar territory before ‘Come On’ gives Redfern the chance to deliver a powerful guitar solo at rip roaring speed, before ‘Getaway’ kicks its way in and shows Kenworthy’s subtle harmonies off rather well against the main vocal.
It’s clear that the three of them work well together as there are many complimentary eyeball moments especially at the finish of a tune. ‘Dark Religion’ is slower in pace (ish) but this time with an upbeat feel to it and again rounded off with blended vocals from the front two.
By now Redfern has swapped guitars half a dozen times at least and he does so again for ‘The Native’, another new tune with a pulsing backbeat on guitar accented with the slide that our man is known for. The vocals are chant-like before they power their way through to a resounding finish.
‘Scorpio’ used to be the opening tune last time around and again shows Redfern’s slide guitar off to perfection and the man really comes into his own. The bass makes it’s play for attention taking over the sixteenths from McAuley if such a thing is possible on a bass guitar – which it is apparently. This gives Chester everything they wanted and expected to see and hear, to the point where we’re as near to a head banging session as we’re going to get. The vocals scream their way through, and the message is received.
It’s now that I fully realise how much of an extra dimension Kenworthy has added to all this. The overall sound is much more rounded, which is a true testament to her input, as there was absolutely nothing wrong in Nottingham – it was excellent – but this raises the stakes to an even higher level.
All of this really shows through with a thumping bass line on ‘Down’ that is so simplistic in itself (because sometimes, less is more) enhanced by more sixteenths on McAuley’s hi-hat before all hell breaks loose for the instrumental. This is heaven.
More new tunes, the third and fourth of the evening, are paraded before us, ‘The Fever’ and ‘The Strange’, making you want this new album all the more, and ‘Waiting for Your Love’ makes you want to buy ‘The Fire Cosmic’ even if you’ve already got a copy. Chester had wanted this, waited patiently for it, and were not let down when it finally arrived. A huge cheer said so at the end.
We only got seven songs in Nottingham but we’re the best part of a dozen in by now and feeling spoiled. ‘Sanctify’ finishes us off starting with some rim shots by Finn and a heavy dose of interplay with Redfern. The rim shots give way to loud riffs on the skins. We’re running for home now and at pace. Redfern’s guitar screams with distortion, Kenworthy whips everyone into a bit of audience participation which was obeyed without question and we arrive at the finish line with an almighty crash.
No encore ! !
…but Chester doesn’t care by now. It’s been well and truly rewarded and is very grateful. Tonight, was an absolute pleasure to witness and I look forward to The Commoners return in October and Troy Redfern’s new album at some point later this year.
Over and out.
The Commoners are: –
- Chris Medhurst (vocals/guitar),
- Ben Spiller (bass),
- Ross Hayes Citrullo (lead guitar)
- Adam Cannon (drums)
- Miles Evans-Branagh (keys)
The Commoners SetList
- More Than Mistakes
- Find A Better Way
- Devil Teasin Me
- Body and Soul
- Who Are You? (Ain’t Knocked Down)
- Sweet Melissa
- Hangin’ On Again
- Fill My Cup
Troy Redfern are: –
- Troy Redfern (guitars aplenty)
- Finn McAuley (drums)
- Keira Kenworthy (bass)
Troy Redfern SetList
- All Night Long
- Sweet Carolina
- Come On
- Dark Religion
- The Native
- The Fever
- The Strange
- Waiting for Your Love