Meghan Parnell says it more than once,  as if she really wants to re-iterate the point, but she and Dave Barnes are here representing Bywater Call rather giving the full experience. The acoustic set – which Barnes dubs “my worst nightmare”-  is a world away from the seven piece band they normally play with, but it does prove MV’s theory that a great song translates to multi-formatting. Their set is pulled from both their albums, with “Remain” from last year’s, mixing with “Swing Low” from their 2019 debut magnificently. The stripped down format arguably makes Parnell’s voice even more powerful – and she’s sensational. They enjoy themselves on the “straight up blues” jam of “Dust My Broom” by Robert Johnson, and Barnes’ playing suits it too. Indeed, by the time “Bring Me Down” ends things, there’s no doubt there’s many, who are pencilling trips to see them when they return in the autumn. To stand up solo and play songs that most of the crowd don’t know is a brave endeavour that can easily go wrong. Not, though, if you have talent, and Meghan Parnell and Dave Barnes evidently have it in abundance.

There’s a moment in “Cold Night” – the song which ends the main set here  – where Robert Jon And The Wreck just jam, they just find a groove and go with it. You could close your eyes at that moment and think you’d wandered into an Allman Brothers concert in the 70s. It’s glorious. It’s everything this music, this band, is all about.

That it manages to be a highlight (the highlight) is a mark of its majesty, given that the two songs before it are “Oh, Miss Carolina” and “Shine A Light On Me Brother”, two of the finest songs of recent years, but then Robert Jon And The Wreck are not your normal band.

They don’t have an image, they don’t have bombast or gimmicks. What the five piece do have is two things: consummate skill and wonderful songs. Both are on display for an hour and 45 minutes here.

Where some bands march on to explosion and chest beating, RJATW walk on, plug in, tune up and thunder out “Pain No More”, a single from last year, and whilst “Do You Remember” sandwiches it, there’s little doubt that for all the classic sound, this is a band that is intent to push on. “Come At Me” their recent Don Was produced single is right there, and its presence in the set is assured.

Indeed much of the set is from the newer end of their material. “She’s a Fighter” and “Wating For Your Man” let hairs down and reignites the debate as to whether they are a rock n roll band or a southern rock one. The answer is yes. To both.

Not that the band themselves care less. Instead, they are belting out their road anthem “High Time” (and it’s apt too, as this Is the third time I’ve seen them since gigs resumed) or playing “When I Die”. That one’s perfect too, as it gives them a moment. Their new keyboard player Jake Abernathie and guitarist Henry James are stunning here. They are better on “Gold”, which seemingly is determined to be an arena dwelling power ballad. That’d be lovely, but they belong on these club stages as the next twenty minutes proved. “….Carolina” is as good as it gets and becomes a singalong, “……Brother” brings the soul and “….Night” has the “wow!” factor. Bands just aren’t this good, generally.

They encore with both parts of “Last Light On The Highway” and as they reach their final crescendo Robert Jon Burrison introduces the band, removes his cowboy hat, bows and simply says: “and we are Robert Jon And The Wreck”.

It’s a suitably understated way to conclude, because if ever there’s a band that lets their music do the talking, its this one. The thing is, when it comes to RJATW the music doesn’t talk. It yells. Really loudly. And it says there’s no better band around right now.


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