Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dry The River @ Electric Ballroom, London

2 May 2012

Dry The River’s debut effort, Shallow Bed, only came out at the beginning of the year but they’ve been on the road constantly and had already been garnering plenty of attention and hype long before their appearance on the BBC’s Sound of 2012 longlist and the subsequent album release that followed it. Their appearance at the Electric Ballroom feels more like a homecoming than your bog-standard tour date. It’s also a sell-out and, from the moment they stroll out to Michael Jackson‘s Will You Be There (you don’t see many folk bands do that) they relish the opportunity to give it their all in front of what is their biggest headlining show so far.

It’s been almost impossible for anyone to write an article on or even summarise them without mentioning Mumford & Sons. It’s puzzling because the London quintet don’t seem to belong to that crowd. Yes, there’s acoustic guitars but they also operate under a different set of dynamics and nowhere is that more apparent than in a live setting. They look more like grungers than folkies; there’s no cardigans or waistcoats to be found in sight as they play with all the force and mannerisms of a rock band. This is very refreshing to see amidst all of the artists that have emerged in the wake of the awfully-named ‘nu folk’ explosion.

That said, they do have their quieter moments and the Fleet Foxes-esque Shaker Hymns is engrossing to watch. There’s a moment mid-way through when they make the brave move to start off one song completely acoustic – no amplifiers – and slowly but surely they manage to get the entire venue onside as more and more people sing along as it progresses. It is a unique moment and it’s to their enormous credit that, in a venue that’s more used to flying beer cups than gentle swaying, they manage to pull it off.

Peter Liddle’s voice is full of emotion and are at their best on songs such as History Book and Weights & Measures. One minute his vocals sound vulnerable and the next he’s bellowing it out with all of his power. He’s helped in equal measure by guitarist Matt Taylor and bassist Scott Miller on harmonies and their vocals as a unit are rock-solid for the hour that they spend on stage.

They also know how to really rock out. Just before they play Bible Belt they indulge themselves in an instrumental jam that bizarrely sounds like the crescendo of a Mogwai song and their final song of the evening, Lion’s Den, gradually builds and builds to the point where it as loud as thunder and becomes a glorious wall of noise.

Dry The River have earned this moment in their career after a couple of years of hard work and as the crowd make their way out of venue into the slightly-chilly air outside there is a sense that they can still go one better. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess but the best part of what they do is that you can hear so many wide-ranging influences that they have a lot of possibilities open to them. However, no one will complain if they continue this current path they’re on. It’s worked well so far, so why change a winning formula?

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