May 20, 2024

Robert Jon & The Wreck – ‘Live At The Ancienne Belgique’ – “blistering rock to gentler, nostalgic ballads”

JOURNEYMAN RECORDS    21st April 2023

The band set up filming and recording for this set, so they may have pulled out extra stops tonight but they already have a reputation for blistering shows and this was over fifty shows into the tour so they were a well-honed machine. From the opening ‘The Devil Is Your Only Friend’, the sound is loud and excited. We move from blistering rock to gentler, nostalgic ballads like ‘Do You Remember’, with twining guitars and something of the feel of Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band as they hark back to teenage years. That said, they can’t help ramping that ballad up into a huge chorus and noodling guitar workout.

This is firmly in the tradition of Southern Rock, with a sense of seventies bands like Lynard Skynard and The Allman Brothers. They’re actually from California but we’ll forgive them that for the sheer joy of the performances. Guitars twine, many solos are taken, the crowd are exhorted and a good time is had. Guitars are used to fill and decorate vocal lines, making a full sound, further beefed up with piano and organ lines. We hear about where they’re from, the girls from there, old loves and the feeling of longing for place and memory is strong.

Hopped up after COVID put their touring plans on hold for a couple of years, the band set up for a night on June 29th, 2022, so rather than the usual tour ‘best of’, the band had confidence in their performance for one show. That’s some chutzpah! They’re a confident band, pumping out ten albums in ten years, three of them live. Joe Bonamassa has signed them to his Journeyman Records for the last few releases and his imprint can only help their career.

The keyboard solo gets it’s own three-minute track – a treat of lovely organ sounds and a suitable rest from the rocking. It leads into ‘The Death Of Me’, a nine minute ballad that starts out gentle and slowly builds to a crescendo and back down again before the next crunching number – a guitar-drenched feast (‘Don’t Let Me Go’). The set leans to melodic songs, turned into wrenching pieces with hoarse vocals and guitar wrangling.

The crowd are rowdy in a way I don’t associate with European audiences and I suspect the show drew in any US or UK ex-pats around – and it works. There is a definite buzz and by the penultimate track, ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ the effect is like a merger between a Meatloaf mockabilly number and a Lynyrd Skynyrd workout, backed by audience chanting. The farewell is the thirteen minute epic, ‘Cold Night’. Working though movements, rising in energy and cooling, it’s a rollercoaster of rock mastery.

This is a double-vinyl, CD and DVD release and if it is anything to go by, you really should catch one of their fairly regular UK visits.

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