Words by Damien Russell / Pics by Paul Reynolds
Isn’t it just always the way that whenever you have something specific to get to, something goes horribly wrong on the journey. Tonight was no exception, and a rush into Birmingham with an eye on the clock made for a bit of a shaky start to my evening. But with whole seconds to spare before ‘curtain up’… I made it.
Being a Wednesday night you never quite know how it’s going to go, but it wasn’t long before ‘propping up the bar’ became ‘standing in the way’. It was a good turnout for a weeknight and a broad-mix demographic too.
The evening was opened by Ember Weir, a three piece with a sound that seemed both heavy and not heavy at the same time, somehow. They hit the stage with an anthemic opener, moved straight into ‘13’ – an indie style rock song, then a total mood shift into a softer piano driven song that reminded me of early Train.
A diverse group whose best song in my opinion is their newly recorded number, ‘Problem’. They won the crowd over well and I look forward to seeing them again.
The melodic grunge/rock band MUTT were next to hit the stage and certainly kept the tempo up. Somewhat heavier in sound than Ember Weir, they built the evening well and their drummer was a real pleasure to watch, making some complicated playing look easy. They reminded me in some ways of a more relaxed X-Ray Spex, being slightly heavy, slightly punky, but MUTT delivered it at a steadier pace. Personally, I would love to see them throw a bit of prog, some tempo changes, and more intricate song structures into the mix.
The anticipation grew for Rews to hit the stage. What I knew of their songs had shown a big sound; I was looking forward to seeing this replicated onstage. But I hadn’t been able to work out quite how they would do this.
As headliners for the evening, Rews didn’t disappoint. They came on with a bang and it was remarkable the depth of sound the two of them made. I worked out later that the clever use of a Super Octaver guitar pedal and some fancy finger-work on the guitar itself were the secret, all rounded off by well-placed vocal harmonies.
Their first few songs weren’t ones that I knew but they were very much in keeping with what I was expecting; up-tempo rock meets pop and pop-punk. Accessible, uplifting and extremely well played.
Personally, I see a lot of singers and the ones that work for me are where you can see they are putting in some effort as the songs build. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vocal range and technical ability certainly has its fans.
But for me, that’s nothing to the energy you get off someone really throwing themselves into their music. I absolutely got that vibe from Shauna Tohill and that was a pleasure to behold.
‘Can You Feel It?’ and ‘Shake Shake’ are the highlights of the set, and knowing these songs I was looking forward to hearing them live. Rews recreated them extremely well and ‘Shake Shake’ in particular stands out as having a slightly heavier dose of pop than much of the set. A real earworm.
Singer/guitarist Shauna Tohill has a great informal way of speaking with the audience; the whole evening felt like everybody there was a part of the overall show, not just watching a performance. Singer/drummer Collette Williams also put on a well-rehearsed, professional show and I found it hard to believe that it was really Rews’ first ever headline tour.
Rews overall have a knack for writing songs to make your head nod and your feet move. But I would have loved to hear a ballad or a tear-jerker in their set to give it that real dynamic edge; hopefully when they come back to Birmingham (and I certainly hope they do) they might open up their softer side just a little bit.
For more on Rews, visit www.rewsmusic1.wordpress.com
For more from The Flapper, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.theflapper.co.uk
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com