Rag’n’Bone Man at Electric Brixton
Rory Graham, better known by his Steptoe and Son-inspired stage name Rag’n’Bone Man, has undeniable presence. He’s a big man, with a biker beard and tattoos across his knuckles: “funk” and “soul” rather than “love” and “hate”, hinting that first impressions are not to be trusted. Graham’s size and physicality, impressive though it is, is entirely eclipsed when he opens his mouth to sing.
Graham arrives on stage at the Electric Brixton wreathed in smoke with a five-piece band for backup. Very much an up-and-coming act, the audience here are in the know and expectant. They’ve come to South London to hear a man whose musical training consisted only of listening to genre greats – John Lee Hooker, BB King, Muddy Waters – as a kid. Rag’n’Bone Man, with his Sussex roots and Deep South soul, doesn’t disappoint.
Opening with arguably one of his poppier tracks, the band play in Wolves with pacy, deliberate drums before Brixton is treated to the first glimpse of Graham’s power and range. Laced with soul, his gravelly range smears its emotion and intensity across the crowd as he finds his feet onstage. Following this, the audience are treated to a host of tracks from his forthcoming debut album: the gospel-infused and bluesy Age of Light, the soulful Odetta (that is sure to be a single) and the pure funky Be the Man all serve to reinforce the image of a man who brilliantly belies first impressions.
Towards the end of a packed set, Graham launches into Human, the hit that went to number one across Europe and no doubt prompted an international tour. It’s a highlight, showcasing the gravelly lows and raw – nearly angry – power of his voice. The singer and his crew wrap up a brilliant set with the moodily triumphant Bitter End, from the Disfigured EP.
If Rag’n’Bone Man’s Brixton gig, and recent European success, is anything to go by, the UK will be hearing a lot more from him in 2017. Mixing sheer soulful power with a talent for the softer side, Rory Graham is absolutely one to watch.
For further information about Rag’n’Bone and future events, visit here.
Watch the video for Human here: