Review by Tim Marcus with photos from Sam Conquest Photography
We’re back at one of our favourite London venues this evening, the iconic 100 Club, where Brave Rival are set to play their biggest headline show to date. However to add to the occasion, one of our other favourite bands, Big River are here too as the main support act plus we have the added bonus of a new band to us, Thr3e.
It’s Thr3e that open proceedings and knowing nothing about them what we get for the next forty-five minutes is a complete and unexpected bonus. Firstly, I have to confess to being mildly amused by the irony of the band’s name as Thr3e are in fact a four-piece! Described on their Facebook page as “Firmly rooted in 60s/70s British blues but with influences ranging from old blues to the more recent”, they are certainly all of that and more.
It’s a great set of rhythm and blues and among the sounds being generated, I’m hearing everything from the Rolling Stones to Bad Company, which perhaps isn’t surprising given we learn during the set that Paul Rodgers’s blues rock maestros are one of their greatest influences. In one track I’m even hearing a bit of a ZZ Top sound going on and that’s before they announce they’re going to play us a bit of Southern Boogie. A very talented quartet who clearly thoroughly enjoyed their time entertaining us and a band that I’ll definitely be looking out for in the future.
Next up is one of our favourite bands currently on the circuit, and another who makes no secret of the fact that they are heavily influenced and inspired by the work of Paul Rodgers, Free and Bad Company. That band is of course Big River, hailing from the Medway region of South East England.
The vast majority of what we hear from Big River this evening is taken from their 2019 debut album, “Redemption” and their more recently released EP, last year’s, “Beautiful Trauma”. Whilst there have been a couple of personnel changes since 2019, most noticeably the introduction of former Mick Ralphs Band singer (and The Voice contestant!) Adam Barron on vocals, this if anything has given a little extra oomph to the live delivery of what was already a great set of songs.
Bassist Simon Gardiner is the most recent addition having joined the band at the end of 2021 and he has fitted seamlessly into the lineup. The set kicks off with a couple of tracks from the 2019 album, “Blues Blood Baby” and “Mama”. “Slow Burn” follows from the “Beautiful Trauma” EP before we get one of a couple of new songs this evening, written by multi-instrumentalist drummer, Joe Martin, this one being “Why Should I”. Next, Adam takes to the ukulele and tells the story of how he acquired this one, it being on the last occasion they appeared here at the 100 Club. On that particular occasion, Adam had forgotten to bring his uke with him but fortunately, his wife was on hand and saved the day, heading off to a well-known musical instrument store on Denmark Street, returning with the only ukulele left in the shop!
They proceed to play “Don’t Hold Out” before we get to what for me, and many others I suspect, was the highlight of the evening. Not that it was anything any more remarkable than anything else but perhaps because it was just simply wonderful and unexpected. Before they continue, Adam tells how when they were doing this next song in sound checking earlier this evening, Lindsey and Chloe from Brave Rival were around and decided to join in with the chorus. As a result, they made an impromptu on-the-spot decision to repeat that during the show so much to everyone’s surprise, and delight, Adam introduced Lindsey and Chloe up onto the stage and we got a most wonderful version of “Tennessee Whiskey”.
It was clear that not only did it go down a storm with the crowd, but that Adam, Lindsey and Chloe thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it too. From this moment onwards, the planned setlist went somewhat out the window! We did hear “Beautiful Trauma” and “The Long Way”, both from the EP, as well as “Hometown Hustler”, before this wonderful forty-five minutes is brought to a conclusion with another new song penned by drummer Joe Martin, “Wings”.
After a very short break (I think Big River may have overrun ever so slightly) it’s time for the main event of the evening. Having followed Brave Rival’s journey over the past four years, I’m rapidly running out of superlatives to describe just how good they are and just how much they’ve grown as a band in that relatively short period of time: From a band barely known or heard of outside of their home town, to what tonight, Lindsey is proud to tell us, is Brave Rival’s biggest headline show to date.
Yes, they’ve played at this iconic venue before, in a supporting capacity, and yes they have probably played in front of bigger audiences (at festival appearances) however tonight there are close to 350 people gathered here specifically because they want to see and hear Brave Rival.
It would be very simple for me to continue this piece simply by going through the set track by track however to do that would make the evening sound just like any other show, perhaps even just like an album review. However, to witness a live show given by Brave Rival is something very special indeed. Their recorded material, primarily their debut studio album, “Life’s Machine”, released last year, is wonderful to listen to: Great songs, great music, great lyrics and wonderful harmonious vocals from the front pairing of Lindsey Bonnick and Chloe Benjamin.
However, to hear this band perform in the flesh is a completely different experience. Firstly they look and sound so at home and comfortable on a stage; even ones as iconic and legendary as the 100 Club.
As I’ve said on many occasions before when writing about a Brave Rival show, it’s not like watching performers on a stage. It’s more like having your friends round for an evening performing for you in your own front room. They have that ability to make every show an intimate show, making you, the audience, as much a part of it as they are. Then you have the quality and range of the vocals delivered by Lindsey and Chloe which is just off the scale.
The power, energy and emotions that these two ladies generate through their vocal storytelling just have to be heard to be believed and tonight is no exception as they take the songs we’re already familiar with, to a whole new level: You can almost reach out and touch the energy coming from the stage. Then of course there’s guitarist Ed “The Shred” Clarke.
Yes, he plays some wonderfully melodic soulful blues chords however when he gets the opportunity to let loose, opportunities that are plentiful for him these days during a Brave Rival live show, you can see why he earned his nickname. When I was lucky enough to see Brave Rival for the very first time, it happened to be only Ed’s second-ever gig with the band. I remember that night when he played his solo towards the end of what was then a new song, “Come Down”, the rest of the band just took a step back and looked on at this young guitar maestro in wonderment and awe. Four years on, that same wonderment and awe are still there however these days, tonight included; it’s accompanied by a great amount of pride too with now Ed firmly ensconced in the Brave Rival family.
And we shouldn’t forget the rhythm section either, with drummer Donna Peters and bassist Billy Dedman both having played previously with Albany Down, they do an excellent job of holding things together with some great bass lines while Ed lets loose and all hell is breaking loose with those vocals. Like all Brave Rival live performances, tonight has been full of both enjoyment and excitement. The set tonight was roughly a fifty-fifty split between songs from the “Life’s Machine” album and an increasing number of new songs being introduced into the set in preparation for a second album; my two particular favourites of those at the moment being “Bad Choices” and “Fairytale”.
The quality of those new songs too is underlined by how seamlessly they have fitted into the live show alongside the existing favourites. Add to that a song that has been on their set list ever since I started watching them, their wonderful cover of Etta James’s version of “Damn Your Eyes”, and it’s been another great evening in the company of Lindsey, Chloe, Donna, Billy and Ed.
If you missed them this time around they’re continuing to tour extensively over the next three months, including another London date coming up at the 229 in November. As well as the touring they’re also in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of raising sufficient funds to complete a 12-track album. Details of this and their upcoming tour dates can be found on their website and socials.