The Waterfront, Norwich May 14, 2022
by Adam Aiken
It’s sometimes a little frustrating that shows at The Waterfront get going so early on Saturdays.
The club night that’s scheduled for downstairs later in the evening means we’ve all got to be out of here before 10pm, and so proceedings get under way while we should still be enjoying our pre-gig aperitifs.
But on the flip side, it’s good that these shows are still put on despite the time constraints – and timings don’t really matter when the music is top-notch.
And top-notch music is what we get from the moment Troy Redfern weaves his way, alone, through the crowd from his dressing room at the other end of the building to the stage, clutching his guitar and immediately launching into his tour de force set.
This is a room where some acts struggle to conquer the sound system, but Redfern gets it right from the very first note.
Without his fellow band members on this tour, he still makes a hell of a noise – at times more than one man should be able to – but he never loses any definition and delivers a masterclass of guitar work.
The setlist is a short one (just the five songs), but they are all extended numbers. Scorpio, the opener, is the pick of the trio of tracks from his latest album The Fire Cosmic, while he brings things to a close with a blistering version of Voodoo Chile.
If there’s one slight disappointment, it’s that Redfern doesn’t manage to squeeze in another of his originals instead of a Hendrix cover, but that’s just a minor quibble. It’s a tremendous start to the night.
This weekend is a notable one for When Rivers Meet. They are up for another bunch of gongs at the UK Blues Awards tomorrow night, and this sold-out gig is as near as Downham lad Aaron Bond will get to a hometown show on this tour.
It’s clear from the get-go that there are plenty of friends and family in the audience tonight, but the warmth for Aaron and wife Grace is based on much more than that.
Did I Break The Law, which kicks things off, is the archetypal WRM track. It’s a simple number but one that is both brooding and drips with a catchy blues riff. And from here, it’s a night of standouts, including the likes of Battleground, Lost & Found and He’ll Drive You Crazy (which wouldn’t sound out of place in a Zeppelin set).
The ballad Tomorrow gives James Fox (who’s now the band’s permanent sticksman) the chance to step out from behind the drum kit and reprise his previous role on the keys but overall it’s a rocking set, with Aaron switching between guitar and cigar box while Grace complements her role on vocals by giving occasional outings to her violin and mandolin.
The highlight of this evening is an awesome performance of We Fly Free which sees Grace venture deep into the crowd before it’s the turn of Fox and bassist Roger Inniss to take centre stage.
Too often, otherwise enjoyable shows are ruined by dull bass solos and – even more so – by boring drum solos, but not tonight. Both show off their skills by incorporating their solos into the song without ever crossing the line into pretentiousness, and the chemistry between Fox and Inniss works a treat as the latter keeps his bandmate guessing on what his next riff will be.
Meanwhile, the set is punctuated by anecdotes from the Bonds. Some of it is familiar stuff to those who’ve been following the couple via their active social-media channels, but their notes and observations are no less charming for that.
And this is no insincere act – this is a couple who are genuinely chuffed to be where they are, having put in the hard work to negotiate various setbacks during their blossoming career but now enjoying the fruits of their labours.
With the upbeat Testify bringing the night to a triumphant conclusion, it’s clear that Aaron and Grace are going from strength to strength. They’ve mastered the art of self-promotion to a T and have developed a loyal following even though – conversely – they’ve remained under the radar of some of the critics.
It means the success they are now deservedly enjoying has been driven by the grassroots, and it’s those people who are here tonight.
But many more shows such as this and WRM will surely be making even bigger waves.