The Revival Tour @ Thekla, Bristol 18.11.12

The Revival Tour is all about collaboration, and this can be seen from the start at Thekla. Arriving on stage to the strings of Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg, the assembled line-up of Chuck Ragan, Cory Branan, Emily Barker, Jay Malinowksi, and Rocky Votolato jump straight into proceedings, each playing a song whilst the others would join in – be it on guitar, harmonica, tambourine, or pretty much anything they can get their hands on.

Dec 5th, 2012 at Thelka, Bristol / By Stuart Knapman
The Revival Tour @ Thekla, Bristol 18.11.12 After the introductions the stage is vacated save for the wild-eyed Cory Branan who launched into a furious set of folk-punk. On stage Branan is something of a force of nature, but under the fire and the fury is an incredibly accomplished songwriter and performer. From the witty ‘Prettiest Waitress in Memphis’, to the sombre ‘The Wreck of the Sultana’ Branan executs every last song perfectly, ably accompanied of course at various points by the rest of the acts. Add to that some pearls of wisdom, “Never get your hair cut at a place that spells cuts with a K or a Z”, recited in a drawl Southern accent and you can almost be sat in a bar in Branan’s native Memphis.

Following a set as good as Branan’s may have been a daunting feat to undertake, however, Australia’s Emily Barker does so with aplomb. The haunting melodies of Barker’s set are about as far removed from Branan’s visceral performance as you could imagine, but no less enjoyable. Joined by two members of her band The Red Clay Halo, Barker proceeds to enchant the assembled crowd, with a particular highlight being the beautiful ‘Nostalgia’. It’s testament to her performance that Emily leaves the crowd silent throughout her songs, with the only noisy, rapturous applause at the end of each one.

Next up is perhaps the most recognisable name on the bill, Bedouin Soundclash frontman Jay Malinowski. Of all the performances on the evening this is perhaps the most eclectic, encompassing everything from calypso to traditional folk. At one point Malinowski even leaves the stage entirely, allowing his backing band The Deadcoast to take centre stage. At most shows a move like this would probably not be received in the best spirits by the crowd, but the Revival Tour isn’t about the names performing near half as much as it is about the music.

The penultimate act of the evening is Texan Rocky Votolato. Like the three artists before him Rocky brings something unique to proceedings, playing a raw, stripped-back set. On the first leg of the tour in Cardiff, Rocky seemed a little reserved compared to some of the other acts on the bill, but by the time the tour reaches Bristol this had matured and his subtle, heartfelt performance really strikes a chord.

The final solo act of the night is the one and only Chuck Ragan. As the founding father of the Revival Tour it comes as little surprise that his set perfectly encapsulated the mood of the entire evening. Joined by Joe Ginsberg and Jon Gaunt for the duration of his set, Ragan blitzes through material from his three solo albums, playing guitar like a caveman and roaring like a truck engine. Seeing Chuck Ragan live shows just how committed an artist he is and as he ends his set, drenched in sweat, it is clear how much goes into every single performance.

The rest of the tour, backing musicians and all, resume the stage after Ragan’s set for a last triumphant hurrah, with the highlight being the chorus of voices singing Malinowski’s ‘We’ve All Got To Be Going Somewhere’. The Revial Tour: not just a show, but a way of life.