News & Insights 6 November 2012

Keepin’ it real with Dry The River…

Dry The River rocking the Empire.Last week, Johnny LY and I went to see Dry The River at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We’ve been lucky enough to catch this band at the two high points of their career – last year at the Scala, and now this date at SBE (both of which represented at the time their biggest headline shows to date) – and they were nothing short of stunning.

As we were watching DTR start their set, my housemate Neil asked me ‘Who’s the best band you’ve ever seen live?’ and I honestly struggled to think of an act more accomplished than Dry The River. Their history is an interesting one, the members’ past musical ventures representing a discordant mix of troubadour folk and hardcore post-punk. The result is a band who understand dynamics perfectly, right through from exquisite quiet to devastating loud. And their voices…? Well, in The Lightyears we’re a band who work hard at – and pride ourselves on – quality vocal harmonies, but I have to say I felt my cage rattled by this lot. Their vocals are just out of this world.

Possibly the most striking point of the evening was DTR’s encore, when they left the stage, headed out into the centre of the floor and performed their heartbreaking track Shaker Hymns completely unplugged, embraced in a sea of people and lit by the lamps from camera phones. I’ve seen this kind of thing done a couple of times now (apparently Ed Sheeran‘s a big advocate) and, while it’s no longer especially original, the impact on the audience is always huge, and I think this tells us a lot about the direction the industry is heading in. Almost every performance we see is magnified and boosted and amplified by a million valves and speakers and diodes; mainstream recordings are polished and cajoled and manipulated until they are no longer representative of ‘real’ music – and in an environment such as this, the simple fact of a few talented musicians performing without the veneer of electricity can seem (in fact, is) quite magical.

Here’s a video shot by someone lucky enough to be right in the heart of the action:

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