Live at The Wardrobe, Leeds 20th September 2023
Full, loud, tight; Robert Jon & The Wreck are your archetypal Southern Rock band, even if they are from California. It’s a proper rock show, with solos from everyone and celebration of the extended song that builds up to a splash. An hour in, they’ve played a mere eight songs but they’ve worked each hard and we’d be happy to hear more of each. In fact, the last song before the encore, ‘Cold Night’ is their big vehicle for jamming and happily blasts past the ten minute mark. The bass takes solos, the keys get a spot or two and Henry James on guitar is sonically front and centre plenty.
Robert Jon is an imposing presence, with his cowboy hat and rocking beard. Henry, on guitar is the counterpoint; skinny with an alternately worried or absorbed face. I’m guessing he’s a perfectionist, as he must have p’d the sound and light people off properly and hardly got a light on him all night. He has a million effects pedals and uses them all, adding to his palette, which is heavily based on what we want to hear, fiddly-diddly classic rock fretwork at blistering pace. The bass is a bag of fun. Not only can we actually hear the notes (well done Wardrobe for the sound, if not the light) but Warren Murrel is in constant bouncy motion, rocking the sound back and forth. His first solo is six songs in, on ‘Don’t Look Down’ but he gets some more in as the evening becomes more fluid. ‘Rescue Train’ gets rubbery, tactile bass, alongside an organ solo on the Nord.
The audience is surprisingly mixed in age and appearance and I think the sheer fun of the band’s live reputation draws people in across boundaries. Any newcomers will have been grabbed by the opener and confirmed in the next song – the band’s classic ballad, ‘Do You Remember’. I say ballad but it’s hard driving ballad rock, grabbed by the cojones and rocked up. Every song is strong on melody and chorus, instantly accessible. Songs rock, occasionally get a little funky but they don’t do light – they are here to rock, loud and live.
Robert doesn’t take himself too seriously and gently mocks himself when he announces the wrong song – “he’s even got the set list right there” teases Henry. Songs cover all the bases from love to home to drinking and fit right into a timeless classic mould. As I listen to Henry’s tone as he opens ‘Cold Night’, I’m drawn to thinking of the Allman Brothers, elsewhere touches of Lynard Skynard and like both those bands, there are guitar solos that last longer than any one song by The Ramones.
It’s a time-warp, a door to a place where it is always the early seventies but just one prime part; a music that doesn’t worry about new or cool, one that appeals to the heart, the gut and the feet.
Read our review of the recent live album here:
I’ll add a few pictures from the high quality support, Caitlin Krisko and The Broadcast, whose musical strengths shine strongest on their cover of Led Zep’s Rock and Roll.