Returning for the second time in under 12 months Rory Graham AKA Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was back for the Byron Bluesfest, and luckily enough for us Melbournites some sideshows followed down the coast. After last year’s show I could not get my hand up quick enough to go back and see this tattooed teddy bear, wow the packed Palais Theatre and what a spectacle it was.
Wallace opened the night’s proceedings with a thirty minute performance, she was accompanied by Novak on keys and computer generated bass line that keep the music humming along. She was well invested in her songs and one that stood out was Peter Pan, we can all concur that sometimes we just don’t want to grow up! They were well received by the expanding audience and they were thrilled to be the opening act for Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.
Anticipation was building rapidly as we waited for the main event, the stage filled with multi levelled risers to accommodate the extensive band, including brass and keys. Opening with Wolves, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man took the stage, his presence huge and his voice ever bigger. Ego rang out and while he is the first to admit not all his songs are happy ones Your Way is one of the cheerier ones and if you wanted a dance this was the time. The Fire and Hard Came the Rain both superb, then Lay My Body Down which is a song about murder but Rory promised to smile while he sang it. His witty sense of humour ever present.
Life In Her Yet a beautiful tribute to his grandmother and to strong women all around the world, followed by the glorious Odetta. You could hear a pin drop as Grace echoed through the theatre accompanied by stunning lighting and lyrics to break the hardest of hearts, add to that Skin and the tears were flowing. The opening verses were sung with just the keys accompanying, so hair raisingly beautiful I was at a loss for words, but as the band came in and the lighting radiated to red this exquisite song reached celestial heights like no other I have ever heard. So emotive and soulful and yet this gentle giant ever humble with just a small thank you to the standing ovation he received.
As You Are, and Guilty terrific editions and then we were treated to a new song written about Rory’s son, only rehearsed during the day we had a sneak peak and it was splendid, while I don’t recall the name the lyrics were “everything is coming up roses” words of a man who is very happy with the turn of events in his life, and he sung it with passion and love. There was no introduction for the next song but it was the one everyone in the theatre knew, Human, the song that started it all in Australia and didn’t we love it! I lost count of the standing ovations we gave over the night but this one had the room aloft and we kept clapping until the return of the band and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. Touching briefly on the band, they are truly remarkable and talented bunch of musicians and singers, it was apparent immediately that they truly love what they do and spreading the joy of music is held high amongst them. But Rag ‘n’ Bone Man demands your attention, seeing the cheekiest of smiles shine through, or the hand on his chest as he poured his heart and soul into his performance, you could feel every word of every song work through your body until you had your hand raised at the crescendo without even knowing you had done it.
Bitter End and Hell Yeah the perfect songs to finish the most soulful of nights, and should we be lucky enough to have Rag ‘n’ Bone Man grace our shores again, I will have both hands held high in a heartbeat, is that greedy of me, maybe but I’m only Human after all!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale