Home Gigs Gig Review : When Rivers Meet with Arielle: The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham.

Gig Review : When Rivers Meet with Arielle: The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham.

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Review by Pete Finn for MPM

It’s something a bit more local tonight, for myself and fellow ‘Old Muppet’, Manny ‘Statler’ Manson. After our recent trips, it’s a short blast to Nottingham. We’re visiting Rock City’s little sister The Rescue Rooms to see two well-respected, up and coming artists, who have both received well deserved acclaim recently, in the forms of When Rivers Meet and Arielle. This is show 12 in what has been a highly successful 14-date tour.

The queue outside is waiting patiently with an edge of excitement, we get ticked off the list and our hands stamped and we’re in. The balcony is open, and the hall is full to the 450-capacity by the time we start.

Opening tonight’s show is Arielle with her band. Born in New Jersey, singer/songwriter/musician Arielle’s musical journey began at just 5 years old when she joined the Peninsula Girls Chorus of California. She got her first guitar at the age of ten. It was as if she had found her soul mate.

She was ‘Discovered’ in 2010 by Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. In the years that followed, she made a name for herself touring throughout North America and the UK, opening, and playing with amongst others Joe Bonamassa, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and members of Deep Purple. Arielle was handpicked by guitarist Brian May for a key role in the London-based musical, “We Will Rock You.” The Brian May link continues with her own BMG signature guitar, a copy of her favourite, affectionately known as ‘Two Tone’.

To date Arielle has released three E.P.’s along with three full length albums, her debut in 2015 being ‘The Whale’. The follow up ‘Suspension/Dimension’ in 2019, with ‘Analog Girl in a Digital World’ released during 2021. Arielle released her fourth album ‘73’ last month, it has gone on to receive well deserved praise.

Arielle has with her on this tour fellow musicians, Sam Tookey (bass) and Emma Taylor (drums).

Sam Tookey and Emma Taylor walk-out, followed a few seconds later by Arielle wearing a pair of white flares and a top with huge cuffs on the sleeves. The band open with ’73’ the title track of the new album. It’s quick paced with rocking riffs and thumping beats. Arielle belts out the fun lyrics, a trip in her magical bus, a time machine back to ’73. Arielle plays a blues solo then a rock solo, Taylor’s rapid drumbeats combine fabulously with Arielle’s guitar work, the Rescue Rooms is bouncing.

The new album gives us ‘Somewhere Slow’ this has a steady rock driven beat, Arielle’s deeper vocal blends with Sam Tookey’s bass. The guitar has a jangly sound which is sitting on bass wash this adds depth and fills the room with sound, the tempo increases as the band flex their muscles and power towards the end of the song, Emma Taylor is singing along and nodding her head. Arielle is at the front of the stage as she teases out the solo.

We move to ‘Voices In My Head’ which is taken from her 2018 E.P. ‘Mind Lion’. A dirty sounding intro, with a strong bass beat, Arielle’s lyrics clear and steady as she narrates the story to us, I think of an old Blues Bar. There’s a couple of tempo changes, which entices you in, the guitars trade riffs back and forth, making you excited for more. It’s a full Blues Boogie, Arielle is stroking her guitar strings. It’s impossible not to nod your head or tap your foot along to. The crowd liked that one.

Arielle asks the crowd, “Is my guitar loud enough?” She continues “I love a guitar, I’m gonna bring some Nashville to ya all.” She now has her acoustic hanging from her shoulder. ‘Weakness For You’ is from the new record, it’s slower and has an Americana feel, based on the rock sounds of the 60’s and 70’s. Arielle is strumming the acoustic guitar. It has a strong beat as Sam Tookey pounds the strings. Arielle’s voice is clear and prominent. A demonstration of the bands ability to mix their sounds, it’s very effective.

A quick guitar swap and we’re now treated to something a bit different. ‘You Wreck Me’ is a cover of the 1994 Tom Petty track taken from his ‘Wildflowers’ album. The version is a great rendition of the original, Arielle’s hands glide over the strings as she plays the solo, the vocal is right on the money. Nottingham gets a mention in the final verse, Arielle finishes the track with the Pete Townshend ‘windmill’ action. The crowd are soaking this up.

Arielle introduces her band, both Tookey and Taylor receive great applause from the Nottingham audience. She also introduces her guitar Two Tone to us. ‘The Way You Look at Me’ is from the new album ’73’, The song is about the person you’re in a relationship with, who when they look at you, you know they don’t love you anymore. The vocal is carefully sung, Arielle shows the audience the great range in both her voice and guitar skills as she plays out a great solo, the combination sounds like Two Tone is on backing vocals. The beats provided by Tookey and Taylor give impact to the lyrics. This is pure emotion; the guitar notes are full of feeling, played with the heart.

Another new track is ‘Kalypso’. It has a real 70’s funk feel, big beats and dirty guitar, the stage lit up red. The guitar is heavy, distorted and sounds great, a real rock track. Taylor’s drumbeat increases the tempo, winding the key to the ‘Jack-in-a-box’ Arielle, who explodes with a crunching guitar solo. Arielle is up on the drum riser, then at the front of the stage kicking high. WOW! That was awesome, and judging by the cheers and clapping, all in the Rescue Rooms agreed.

A grinning Arielle tells us that the last track was fun. The penultimate track of Arielle’s fabulous set tonight is ‘Magick Again’ from the 2017 released E.P. ‘Interim’ and apparently it was written in Ireland. It has a classic Irish folk music sound, sung slowly with consideration. Arielle starts to play a jig; the tempo increases as the track concludes.

From the 2019 album ‘Suspension/Dimension’ the final song of this great set is ‘Genie’s Outta the Bottle’. A quick riff and the track starts, a high tempo that’s full of bounce. The beats are rapid, and the track builds to a big finish.

The band smile and wave as they leave the stage to great applause and cheering. I like everyone in the Rescue Rooms have really enjoyed Arielle’s and her bands performance this evening.

Setlist: ’73; Somewhere Slow; Voices in My Head; Weakness For You; You Wreck Me; The Way You Look at Me; Kalypso; Magick Again; Genie’s Outta the Bottle.

It was during 2016 that husband-and-wife duo Grace and Aaron Bond formed When Rivers Meet. They originally lived in Norfolk, and met at Downham Market, before moving to Brightlingsea in Essex. When they first met, Grace had been touring festivals with a Meat Loaf tribute act, and Aaron had been playing in local rock bands.

Their harmonic vocal-led approach to song writing, incorporating a dirty electric guitar, slide resonator mandolin and violin which create a blues rock sound that oozes 1970s classic rock with a gentle nod to the 1930’s era blues that inspire them.

November 2020, saw the duo release their debut album ‘We Fly Free’ which was positively received by the UK radio, and rock music magazine media as well as reaching No.1 in the Blues Album Charts on iTunes. A year later in November 2021, WRM released their second album ‘Saving Grace’. Their third album ‘Aces Are High’ is due for release later on this summer.

Performing with Grace and Aaron on this ‘Breaker of Chain’s Tour 2023’ are, previous album producer Adam Bowers (bass) and James Fox (drums).

The lights go out to cheers, the ‘Walk-On’ track is played over the PA, the anticipation builds. But there’s a technical issue, and the house lights come back on. Apparently, the false start is due to a problem with a guitar, Tech Matt has it fixed quickly, and we resume. Lights out and the music begins, there’s an explosion from smoke cannons and the band appears.

Tonight’s opening track is one from ‘Aces Are High’ the forthcoming new album, it’s ‘Play My Game’. A big crash of drums and a thumping bass line delivered by James Fox and Adam Bowers start the track, Grace’s lyrics slice through the beats and smoke, as she slides and smooches around the stage. Aaron gives some powerful rock riffs; this is a strong opener.

‘Never Coming Home’ is taken from ‘Saving Grace’. The lyrics are quicker, again Grace shows control and breadth of her vocal range. The hall is captivated, the sounds build the party feel. Grace is swaying and encouraging the crowd to clap along, as she hits and holds the high notes. Grace is waving at the people on the balcony as James Fox’s drum roll closes the track. The Rescue Rooms show their appreciation.

Now, we have ‘Did I Break the Law?’ from the first album ‘We Fly Free’, the driving beat and circular riff grabs your attention straight away, an astute simple hook that has Grace Bond’s vocal dancing along it, she is speaking the lyrics, the tempo increases as the track opens up. Aaron demonstrates fine slide work on the guitar. Adam Bowers’ bass tones are heavy. The crowd are clapping in time to Fox’s beats.

From the debut album, it’s ‘Take Me To The River’. A jangly country/bluegrass sound, Aaron is on the vocals, slide guitar aplenty from both Aaron and Grace. The steady beat from Fox and Grace’s harmonies gives the track a great feel, the chanted chorus and the rhythm section beats gets the crowd clapping and nodding along.

Aaron has the cigar box guitar out. ‘Saving Grace’ provides the next track ‘Shoot the Breeze’, it starts with a James Fox drum roll, then Grace joins in with the vocal, this is a slower track with a dirty/sleazy sound. The start/stop tempo punctuated by heavy beats from both Bowers and Fox. Aaron is in the background playing a steady riff. Adam Bowers is playing the trumpet. The band highlighted on stage by piercing spotlights.

Now, it’s time for something a bit older, ‘Like What You See?’ is from the first EP ‘The Uprising’. The blues/roots sound very obvious from the start, Grace has her mandolin, Aaron is duetting with her, they are lost in the moment almost serenading each other, it’s full of emotion.

Grace tells us it’s a full house tonight, and thanks an “Amazing” Nottingham for their support. Then tells us that they are going to play a stripped back version of a song that means a lot to them. The acoustic guitar and haunting whistle introduce ‘Bury My Body’ from the ‘We Fly Free’. Grace and Aaron are either side of the mic and singing together, their voices entwined in harmonies. They’re serenading one another, as they stare into each other’s eyes. Grace picks up and plays her violin. The haunting sounds continue for the outro. The Rescue Rooms crowd were enthralled, hanging on every note.

‘I Will Fight’ is another track from ‘We Fly Free’, it starts with a red glow of stage lights and a slightly eerie bass intro. Grace’s slow and clear lyrics add emotion, Aaron is complimenting with backing vocals, the sounds provided by the build and start to fill the room, Grace is playing slide on the electric mandolin. Smoke cannons add to the spectacle as the track builds to a finish, which is met with a good cheer.

Aaron gets the cigar box guitar out for ‘Innocence of Youth’ from the 2020 EP of the same name, it has Grace speaking the lyrics over a quiet beat, these vocals start to trade blows with a punchy blues riff from Aaron. The cigar box guitar sounds wonderful. The energy increases as Fox fires his drums quicker. Grace leads the clapping. The sound fills as the band join in and play together. Grace demonstrates great vocal range as the styles change. This is a wonderful rollercoaster ride of tempos. The band are enjoying this one as they all rock out.

Taken from 2021’s ‘Saving Grace’ is ‘He’ll Drive You Crazy’, a quicker rock focused track, with strong riffs and crashing beats which are complimented with pulsating strobe lights from the back of the stage. The beats get the crowd nodding, Grace has the violin out, her vocal is powerful and direct. More blinding strobe lights see the track out.

Aaron comes to his mic, “How are you Nottingham? Are you having a good time?” the loud cheers confirm we are. We visit the ‘Innocence of Youth’ EP which gives us ‘My Babe Says That He Loves Me’. There’s a nice scratch guitar lick coming from Aaron. The metronome drumbeat is a characteristic of the song. Jangly guitar intro that develops into a strummed/scratched guitar sound. The vocals are out and up front in this, Grace is dancing along the edge of the stage as she sings.

A drum then bass intro begins, it’s ‘Battleground’ which was the first single off ‘We Fly Free’, a more traditional rock riff, short and punchy. There are nice tempo changes as the stop/start lyrics and melodies keep your attention. Smoke cannons fill the stage, Grace is swaying and pointing to people in time with the music, before holding a big note to finish.

The tour title track is next, ‘Breaker of Chains’ which is a song from the 2020 ‘We Fly Free’ record. Aaron provides a bluegrass riff, Grace plays her violin as she shares the vocal with Aaron, Bowers and Fox are thumping out the beats behind. It has a real southern sound.

The final track on the ‘Saving Grace’ album is ‘Make a Grown Man Cry’. The rock driven sound has the Rescue Rooms nodding along. Adam Bowers is jumping as he slaps his bass strings. Grace is prowling the stage, encouraging the crowd to join in, Aaron is playing slide guitar as Fox and Bowers pound out the beats.

Grace tells us the next track was very nearly cut from their debut EP, but Adam told them to keep it. From the 2019 EP ‘The Uprising’ we have ‘Tomorrow’, it’s a soothing start as Grace’s vocals ease us into the track, with Aaron’s gentle strumming for accompaniment, slowly and purposefully the rate increases as Bowers and Fox amplify the emotion. Arms are swaying amongst the crowd.

Grace has grabbed her mandolin, ‘Free Man’ from the 2019 EP ‘The Uprising’ has a fabulous slide guitar riff, and a smart backing vocal effect. It has a ‘Spirit in The Sky’ vibe, a happy sound. Grace calls for some arm waving, the lady next to me is dancing, the whole crowd in front of me is moving and swaying like a field of barley ready to be harvested.

Grace picks up her electric mandolin and from their first album it is ‘Walking on a Wire’, more strong beats from Fox, Bowers’ support is clear. More spoken lyrics, this time Aaron’s backing vocal is a big feature adding depth to the sound. The couple, side-by-side perform a slide duet. I like the way the lyrics are in-between the beats; they complement each other well. A Fox drum roll brings the track to a close.

Grace thanks the crowd for the applause, she then introduces the band to the crowd, and follows it up by introducing and thanking each member of the tour crew, which was a nice touch.

Smoke cannons herald the start of ‘Perfect Stranger’ which is the most recent single from the soon to be released album. James Fox counts the track in, a simple and effective riff from Aaron in collaboration with Grace’s spoken words. The track is constructed with two different styles, short and punchy verses with a full and rich chorus, it’s very effective.

Grace tells us they have one more song for us, and thanks those inside The Rescue Rooms for coming out. From ‘Saving Grace’ it is ‘Lost & Found’ a simple circular riff and beat produce a very effective start. Grace’s vocal has the tempo control, with the band happy to follow her lead, with a great bass line from Bowers and marching drums from Fox. Arielle comes back out on stage with Two Tone and joins in, she plays a great solo, the band are all rocking out, it sounds great. The band build up to a big crescendo finish before leaving the stage waving to loud applause.

It’s not long before the band is back out. Aaron asks “Want some more?” The track is the heavy bass powered ‘Want Your Love’ from ‘Innocence of Youth’. Harmonies and riffs make a full and melodic track, again tempo changes are used to great effect to build atmosphere. Grace has the violin out again; the crowd are nodding along. Grace calls for some clapping, before having a ‘Woah’s’ sing-back, there’s a big crashing finish.

“We’re gonna play one more”, a grinning Grace declares. The final track is ‘Testify’ from ‘Saving Grace’ a 70’s rock vibe can be felt through this. Grace brings the violin out for one last time, the band are enjoying this, clapping beats, and rocking riffs. Grace is conducting the crowd as they sing. A great track to finish on. The crowd show their appreciation as the band line up for a bow.

Setlist: Play My Game; Never Coming Home; Did I Break the Law? Take Me To The River; Shoot the Breeze; Like What You See? Bury My Body; I Will Fight; Innocence of Youth; He’ll Drive You Crazy; My Babe Says That He Loves Me; Battleground; Breaker of Chains; Make a Grown Man Cry; Tomorrow; Free Man; Walking on a Wire; Perfect Stranger; Lost and Found; Want Your Love; Testify.

It was around a year ago that I saw both Arielle and When Rivers Meet, although back then on separate tours. Their shows have got bigger and better, their new material has evolved magnificently, the older material can now be classed as ‘new classics’. It has been a very enjoyable evening and judging by the Nottingham crowds appreciation, they have really had a great time. When Rivers Meet have a number of Festival dates over the summer and autumn, try your hardest to get to see them.

Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

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