As I enter the Duchess, there are only a scattering of people who have turned up for Brother and Bones’ support act Mike Johnson. However, this does nothing to diminish his performance and he delivers his simple brand of acoustic music, reminiscent of Ben Howard, with a rare humility. Though the songs themselves were a tad forgettable, his lyrics are heartfelt and his voice hits notes effortlessly, showing promise as a developing singer-songwriter.
In contrast with Mike Johnson’s mellow acoustic sound, The Roscoes bring old school back, smashing their way onstage with a high energy assault of their 50’s-inspired, straight up rock ‘n’ roll. Their raw, guitar-heavy sound, bred from meeting up and ‘making some noise together’ as students, goes down well with the audience. This authentic, fresh-out-of-university vibe adds a certain boyish charm to their set, which hints at bigger things on the horizon.
The audience grows only slightly by the time Brother and Bones make their appearance. However, this is by no means a crowd of disinterested bystanders; this is a group of deeply devoted fans, becoming no more apparent than when the chorus for ‘For All We Know’ is wholeheartedly sung back to the band. The group appear humbled, and this bond with the audience strengthens throughout the show. The small size of the crowd adds a wonderful intimacy and personality to the performance, rather than turning it into a disappointment.
Opener ‘Burn the City’ is initially mellow but ebbs to and fro, continually threatening to burst into full form. This slow-burning intensity eventually culminates in a heavy riff, driven by an infectious beat produced by the double percussion. An onslaught of bluesy, funk-rock follows, though to attempt to categorise Brother and Bones is to limit them; their sound covers multiple genres. A fantastic mix of inventive percussion, searing guitar riffs and some seriously cool bass lines characterise the performance and the acoustic ‘Gold and Silver’ serves as a peaceful interlude to a set that just doesn’t let up. There is sincerity and warmth in frontman Richard Thomas’ voice, who’s vocals occasionally soar above the musical accompaniment as the band move from the gentle, acoustic songs to a more dominant sound.
The second half of the set, rather than slowing down, blazes with energy. ‘Long Way to Go’ descends into a dizzying, percussive assault as the band throw themselves around the stage and ‘Don’t Forget to Pray’, a high point (though there are many) is all vocal hooks and screaming guitars. Closer ‘I See Red’ is performed with a no holds barred ferocity and pulsates with bongo drums; a fresh, innovative touch. The devotion of the crowd, chanting for an encore as the band leave the stage, draws them back to play a wonderful cover of The Black Crowes’ ‘Talk to Angels’, revealed as one of their personal favourites. The performance is simple, just Richard and lead guitarist James Willard, yet deeply engaging.
In all, this was a memorable set. The band have arena-filling amounts of soul and a unique, attention-demanding sound that should ensure they don’t disappear into obscurity anytime soon. Their emotional involvement is touching and is paralleled by the audience; it is their authenticity and sincerity that make them something truly special.By Sophie Brear