Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour rolled into Perth on Wednesday, bringing with it some acoustic wielding musos in the form of Frank Turner, Tim Barry and Ben Nichols. Here are some of the things we learnt (in no particular order):
1. Whiskey causes Feedback.
2. Whiskey makes your voice sound awesome!
3. 6 Guys, 4 Guitars, a fiddle, pedal steel, and a whole load of attitude makes for a great night of music.
The night started early, and in great fashion, with all the artists on stage, everyone playing everyone else’s songs. Which of course led to some very early highlights and some dammed high expectations for the rest of the evening; the group’s version of Turner’s The Road was one such early highlight, boosted by some impassioned backing vocals from Ragan and co. Ragan’s Glory from the Gold Country album was another highlight for me; again benefiting from some passionate backing vocals.
Tim Barry was the first of the night’s performers to be highlighted with a semi solo set. Not being completely au fait with his material, I can’t really comment too much on which song from which album he played. I can however say that he was a great and engaging performer, intermingling anecdotes and expletives throughout his set. He really seemed genuinely happy to have the chance to be on stage so far away from his home, and appreciative of his audience. Like many of the sets throughout the evening, the others jumped in and played along when they felt like it, with Ragan occasionally joining in on Harmonica or vocals. I hope that Barry will find his way back to this neck of woods again soon.
Next up was Ben Nichols, from punk country band Lucero, yet for this evening he was here largely in solo artist capacity. His songs definitely seemed to have a slow burn feel to them; they were rarely up tempo but captivating all the same. One thing that was clear right from the beginning is that Ben Nichols has a great voice; its grizzled and distinctive, the perfect accompaniment to the songs he sings and the songs he writes. He seemed the most reserved of the performers on stage, but still engaged well with his audience, some of whom were obviously fans from previous Revival tours. Having seen him live, I now feel the need to search out more of his solo work; which is a testament to his performance.
In a slight surprise move, Chuck Ragan took the stage next, some may know him from the band Hot Water Music, others may be more aware of him thanks to the Revival tours and his solo work. I on the other hand knew little about him, the only song I knew was Glory, which featured on a split 7” with Brian Fallon. So it’s fair to say that I didn’t really know what to expect, other than acoustic guitar and a punk-like rebellious attitude. It was a strong set, with other members of the tour stepping in now and then.
Midway through the set, Tim Barry reappeared for one last solo song, a song which was being championed by Ragan, as encapsulating the ethos of the show, that song was “Prosser’s Gabriel”, a song based around a failed slave uprising in Virginia, much like the majority of Barry’s set before it was impassioned and strong, and really captured that rebellious aspect of the collective’s music, not to mention the narrative element the tour was aiming to revive. Ragan’s set was largely balanced in tempo, shifting from the up tempo to the more slow burn songs. Near the end of his set, he announced that he would be back to Australia again at the end of the year, but this time he would be bringing his band Hot Water Music and accompanying them would be The Bouncing Souls. Which should be a heck of a show.
The final act to be featured was Frank Turner, and it was almost as if everyone at the show was there to see him and him alone. Now Turner is already heralded as being a leading live performer back in the UK, with a very devoted group of fans; and this definitely showed. It was an incredibly strong and charismatic performance.
He showcased tracks from most of his albums, and despite being slightly “weirded” out by the fact that so many people knew all the words to his songs, so far away from his home, seemed incredibly comfortable on stage, sharing stories of dodging annoying ex girlfriends at protests, and bringing one lucky audience member on stage to play a harmonica solo mid song.
The crowd were there from the outset, many singing word for word along with him. There were no discernible highlights, thus demonstrating the strength of the set; though if I was to pick favourites, I would at a push chose The Ballad of Me and My Friends, and a impassioned God Save The Queen (not the national anthem). One thing that was clear from the set however is that Australia loves Frank Turner, so hopefully we will see him back on our shores before too long.
The night ended with another couple of group numbers, providing a solid end to a night of great music. There are two people I have so far failed to mention in this review, who I would be remiss not to, they are Jon Gaunt on Fiddle and Todd Beene on Pedal Steel. Jon Gaunt is clearly a highly accomplished fiddle player; he accompanied the others perfectly, his fiddle darting in and around the guitars and vocals to great effect. Not only that he cut a great figure on stage, clearly getting into the music, and adding a great bluegrass/Cajun feel to the whole affair. Much the same can be said for Beene on the Pedal Steel, it provided the perfect accompaniment for a number of songs, adding an emotional depth to a number of songs, not to mention prompting the playing of a Frank Turner, song not often played live.
All in all it proved to be a night of fine music, and here’s hoping the Revival Tour rolls into town again soon!
Photos by Callum Smith