Birminghamâ€™s Blues Rockers play a storming first show to coincide with the release of their new EP, Georgia Pine.
A buzz about the young, Birmingham quartet, Broken Witt Rebels, has been circulating the classic rock fraternity since their first single “Low” from their forthcoming third EP, Georgia Pine, was added to the Planet Rock playlist. Listeners responded enthusiastically, rushing to check out the band. A similar thing happened to The Temperance Movement after receiving airplay on Planet Rock Radio. Fans were excited then as they are tonight.
The Broken Witt Rebels lineup includes Danny Core (vocals/rhythm guitar), Luke Davis (vocals/bass), James Tranter (vocals/lead guitar), and James Dudley (drums/percussion). They have also featured recently in both Classic Rock Magazine and Blues Magazine, as well as their single “Low,” included on the covermount CD of the latter.
Broken Witt Rebels’ last gig in London had been at Camden Rocks Festival during the summer of 2015, where theyâ€™d played a much-acclaimed set at the Jazz CafÃ© and a set for Time Out Londonâ€™s Best of Rising Stars show at the end of last year.
The venue is fast filling up and, amongst the chatter, thereâ€™s much reminiscing amongst rock gig regulars of the seminal moment theyâ€™d first heard The Temperance Movementâ€™s “Only Friend” on Planet Rock Radio. It is the same level of excitement felt upon first hearing “Low.”
It is clear that much of the crowd here tonight came after having heard the single on Planet Rock and the music video on TeamRock.
Fans are enthusiastic, awaiting the show wondering if history will repeat itself. Will Broken Witt Rebels be as phenomenal live as their recordings? Will fans be blown away as they were upon hearing The Temperance Movement with their live performances for the first time?
The night also offered the chance to buy the new, much-anticipated, five-track EP, Georgia Pine, already receiving numerous rave reviews, in advance of its official release on April 15.
Naropa, a local, young indie-rock five-piece band opens the night, clearly bringing along a loyal following. Thereâ€™s a palpable chemistry between the band members and a passionate performance that showcases some interesting songwriting. With a few more performances under their belts, they are certainly a band with promising potential and worth watching.
The next band to take the stage is the Sheffield four-piece, Liberty Ship, a contrast to the previous act with their polished, tight performance of melodic, catchy tunes. A very entertaining set, with swinging rhythms, bright, clear vocals and a pleasing mix of electric and acoustic guitar throughout the set. They certainly get the crowd bouncing to their vibrant, indie sound, very reminiscent of the Monkees and The Housemartins with the jangling guitar intros and uplifting melodies. Liberty Ship is a band worth checking out and seeing live.
The crowd is already buzzing with excitement and anticipation as Broken Witt Rebels, the headline band of the night, take the stage and launch straight into “Low,” an explosive opener; the track everyone has been waiting to hear live. Its first three notes are instantly recognisable (for older fans, previously associated with Golden Earring but now synonymous with Broken Witt Rebels).
As soon as Core launches into his powerful vocals, you can almost see jaws drop as the crowd realises this band is not hype; they are the real thing, as powerful-sounding live as their beautifully produced EP. Many of the crowd already know the song and join in the chorus.
The band has a superb frontman in Core, warm and charismatic yet endearing and humble. He knows how to engage with the audience, chatting casually to us, joking about whether the Londoners can understand his Brummie accent.
“Cloud My Day,” from the earlier EP, Howlin’, follows the song that probably most encouraged reviewers to compare and liken Broken Witt Rebels to the southern rock and blues sound of Kings of Leon and Coreâ€™s vocals to those of Caleb Followill. The two bands certainly have some similarity in their complex, multi-layered sound and catchy hooks and though Broken Witt Rebels have a bluesy, soulful element. Core’s texture, grittiness, and emotion are likewise similar to Followill.
With another song, the title-track, from the Howlin’ EP, we are treated to a catchy, up-tempo, riff-driven southern rock number with Coreâ€™s vocals forefront. This track is blues-rock but played in their unique, inimitable style, making the crowd bounce to the rhythm.
The cheers and whistling from the crowd are immense; Core is clearly taken aback by the enthusiastic response from an audience other than the bandâ€™s Birmingham home crowd.
He announces, to our clear delight, that the next two songs, written just a few days previously, are to be the first public performances of “Come On Over” and “God Knows”. These new songs are absolutely fantastic tunes, with Broken Witt Rebelâ€™s characteristic changes in rhythm and tone, Coreâ€™s vocals taking us on a thrilling journey of unexpected highs and lows.
The band follows with two more tracks from the new EP. The first is title track “Georgia Pine,” an anthemic song with an excellent bass line groove reminiscent of Kings of Leon but, again, with a soulful, catchy melody that beautifully illustrates Coreâ€™s incredible vocal range and multi-textured voice.
The second is “Guns,” an up-tempo and energetic, radio friendly song. This tune is probably the most commercial of the new songs, with its infectious, epic chorus, off-beat hi-hat rhythm and Tranter’s soaring guitar work building into a frenzy, really getting the crowd moving, right to the back of the venue.
Core announced the last song of the set to a crowd that is just getting warmed up and wanting more. “Shake Me Down” is another favourite from the Howlin’ EP, a soft bluesy guitar intro which develops into a grooving, driving bass line and guitar riffs. Core steps in with his magnificent soul-drenched vocals and Tranter adds more excitement with some superb guitar work, using southern guitar techniques and sounds.
Despite a band still to follow and no encore time allocated, the crowd just isnâ€™t ready for the set to end and want more. With nothing prepared, Core suggests they play either a cover or a song called Queen Bee from their Howlin’ EP. It is a foregone conclusion â€¦ “Queen Bee” it is.
The song misleads some with its gentle start, before exploding into a powerful, groovy riff with Core growling the lyrics in his trademark soulful tone. It is a winning final song, leaving us all feeling the set was just way too short and still wanting more as the stage was cleared, ready for the last band of the evening.
The Welsh garage rock band, Bright Young People, who have supported the Libertines, brought the evening to an end. The three-piece band of guitar, bass, and drum create an amazingly full-bodied, raw and loud sound. For anyone that might like a grungier, heavier-sounding early-day Oasis, this is a band you would do well to check out.
The consensus in the crowd is that Broken Witt Rebels is one of the best new bands heard over the last few years, many likening the excitement they feel as similar to how they felt after seeing The Temperance Movement live the first time.
They appeal to the current trend for classic, bluesy and Southern rock. With melodies and memorable choruses that stick in your head, tonight, they proved they clearly have the potential to fill arenas one day. They play loud and tight, with total commitment, a collection of four immensely talented and dedicated musicians. Their passion for music shines through, the mix of their influences is evident, but the result is new and modern, resulting in Broken Witt Rebelâ€™s unique sound, which crosses many genres and generations of music lovers.
Broken Witt Rebels have become noticeably tighter as a band since the arrival of their new drummer, James Dudley, evident in their progression in both the songwriting on the new EP, as well as their live performance. The rhythm section is rock solid and energetic, with melodic and moody bass lines from Davis.
Danny Core has a swagger and confidence which belie his age. His voice is incredible; naturally powerful and soulful, tinged with soul, blues, country, and gospel influences. As he sings with such passion and emotion, his vocal tones change naturally. There are wonderful exchanges between Coreâ€™s vocals and James Tranterâ€™s guitar, a perfect balance of music and vocals, which give their performances a remarkable energy, neither out-doing the other.
As always, the boys are delighted to hang around their merchandise stand after their sets to meet their fans, chat, and sign EPs.
This was clearly a night that, one day, all present will be proud to claim “I was there.” Meanwhile, the band will be continuing their UK tour, headlining at Birmingham and Sheffield, followed by support dates for US country rock artist, Brantley Gilbert, in early May. These should give every classic and blues-rock fan an opportunity to see Broken Witt Rebels before they move onto bigger venues. With their brand of Americana-influenced blues-rock, they should have a massive appeal to a US audience, and they could likely be the UKâ€™s newest export there.
As the bandâ€™s motto says, “Up The Rebels!”
Broken Witt Rebelâ€™s latest EP Georgia Pine will be officially released on April 15, 2016.
National Rock Review photographer, Eric Duvet, was behind the lens for the night.