They may have been around since 2014, but lately there seems to be a well deserved groundswell in interest in These Wicked Rivers. The Derby quintet fronted by gravelly voiced John Hartwell picked up a lot of new fans with their spots at Steelhouse and Stonedead festivals this summer and this current Love And Light tour that mixes their own headline shows with support slots for Hayseed Dixie will no doubt create more converts.
Planet Rock favourite ‘Shine On’ gets proceedings started with a primal earthiness to it akin to early Sabbath mixed with a searing guitar riff and Southern Rock vibes. ‘Evergeen’ kicks along at a fair pace before we hear a brooding ‘When The War Is Won’. How this never made it onto debut album Eden I’ll never know. Next up is a ‘Black Gold’; a funky number with a solid groove and should be on the much anticipated forthcoming album.
To round things off there’s more heavy grooves with ‘Testify’ which Planet Rock listeners will have heard on their current play lists (and also features on their new Lonely Road EP), and the epic ‘Don’t Pray For Me’ in which guitarist Arran Day really lets fly. There’s still time to support the band with the crowdfunder to their second album here.
In one of the most low key starts to a gig you’re likely to find, Hayseed Dixie take to the stage while the PA is still playing Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ On’ and when it doesn’t cut out when expected decide to play along to it until it finishes. It’s been 21 years since they burst onto the scene with their album of bluegrass covers of AC/DC songs and the show starts appropriately with ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’.
Their set mixes about one third originals with the rest being covers in what they term themselves as ‘rockgrass’. Frontman John Wheeler remains the only constant in the band over the years and will elaborate on song introductions such as explaining that ‘Lady Of The Bog’ was written about his wife and how he got his daughter to understand that he ‘could make money by taking the piss out of mommy’. He also recounted how the uncool dad who plays granddad rock was able to regain his cool once he scored front row tickets to an Ed Sheeran show (having known Ed Sheeran from when he supported the Hayseed boys long before he became a household name).
Hippy Joe Hymas on mandolin is the most manic on stage often pulling faces and acting out the lyrics while darting over the stage. During ‘War Pigs’ he even goes for a wander around hall. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is complete with harmony vocals and is utterly bonkers as it hurtles along and weaves in and out of ‘Drunken’ Sailor’ and Toto’s ‘Africa’. A frantic ‘Duelling Banjos’ seems as suitable song as any to bring a close to the main set, but an encore is inevitable. A medley of ‘Highway To Hell’, ‘Freebird’ and ‘Eternal Flame’ concludes this hillybilly hoedown in Leamington and a top notch night of entertainment.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Paranoid / Eye of the Tiger
Don’t Stop Believin’
Take On Me
Ace of Spades
Lady of the Bog
Bohemian Rhapsody / Drunken Sailor / Africa
Sweet Baby’s Arms
I’m Keeping Your Poop (In A Jar)
If You’re Brave Enough
Highway to Hell / Free Bird / Hell Ain’t Nothing / Tiny Dancer / Eternal Flame