These Wicked Rivers / Oli Brown and the Dead Collective- Night & Day Cafe – Manchester 19th May 2024 – Live Review

These Wicked Rivers / Oli Brown and the Dead Collective- Night & Day Cafe – Manchester 19th May 2024 – Live Review

23rd May 2024 0 By George Simpson

Sunday nights tend to signal a quiet end to an all-too-quick weekend, don’t they? However, heading into Manchester an hour or so after Man City had been crowned EPL Champions meant there was something very different in the air tonight. Indeed, hundreds in sky blue partied and sang outside pubs and bars, as we made our way to the gig. Though, we were in for a party of our own, a storming show by These Wicked Rivers

First of all, the location. The more I visit the Night and Day Cafe, the more I love it. It’s a long-established live music venue and is easily my favorite watering hole in town. It has a wonderful retro vibe to it which suits tonight’s bands to a tee. 

Before the headliners, Oli Brown and The Dead Collective treat us to a blues tour de force. They were featuring an explosive guitar duo of Oli Brown and Black Star Rider, and Wayward Son, Sam Wood. They trade riffs like they are taking part in some riff-off. They have their feet planted firmly in the blues world, delivering a set of epically heavy, weighty,  grinding songs. That said, the songs are all a little too one-paced for me, and a bit more variety wouldn’t have gone amiss. However, that is just my opinion, and they received a very enthusiastic reception from the audience. You can tell Sam Wood is used to bigger stages than this one. He’s the star of the show here. He owns the stage whilst Oli delivers the vocals and supports guitar histrionics. 

So, onto the headliners These Wicked Rivers. Strolling on stage looking like they could have been the house band in this retro-styled venue for years, they are immediately at home. Over the next 90 minutes take us on a wonderful, bluesy, countryfied trip to the deep south of classic rock land. They are touring in support of their brilliant Force Of Nature album. Judging from the audience’s reaction, I’m not alone in rating it. This is a singalong party from the off. That ‘off’ is the title track from it. 

Not surprisingly, the new album dominates the set. Indeed, from memory, I think all of it gets played at some point tonight. Sounding even better in the live environment, the songs get room to breathe and in some cases allow for an extended treatment or two. The combination of vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Hartwell and Arran Day on lead guitar drives this show like a blues rock juggernaut. The former boasts a well-worn voice, strangely reminiscent of Eddie Vedder at times. Alongside him, Arran plays like he’s accepted Sam Wood‘s challenge from earlier.  He is equal parts guitar virtuoso and showman, with great songs to carry him along the way.    

Picking any singular moment from tonight as the highlight is tough. There are a few springing to mind. The likes of Testify, Black Gold, and the fantastic The Family all receive big reactions from the audience. However, at the other end of the spectrum, the bluesy ballad When The War is Won, and John‘s solo take on the album Closer Lonely Road received big ovations too. That said, the evening’s last song, Don’t Pray For Me is a stone-cold classic to my ears and one they’ll be playing for years. It’s a song in the finest tradition of the likes of Led Zeppelin. Starting quietly, it builds to an epic conclusion, that ends the night on a high note. And. I can safely say this is the first time I’ve ever seen a band throwing flowers in the audience at the end of a gig too! 

And so we head back out onto the city streets still full of celebrating sky blues. Whilst they may think they’re having a great night, I know who had the better one, we did! Great night, a great venue, and a great band, what’s not to love?


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