Rag’n’Bone Man at Brixton Academy
2017 has been a mighty year for Rory Graham, better known as Rag’n’Bone Man. He won the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award in February, the same month his debut studio album Human went to number one. It’s no surprise then that three nights of The Overproof Tour at Brixton’s O2 Academy were completely sold out, with fans eager to hear the songs that catapulted him to the top of the charts. Support acts Josh Barry and Rationale were perfectly picked, setting the soulful tone for the evening before Rag’n’Bone Man made his dramatic entrance.
Though the entrance and flickering lights were dramatic, much of the evening sustained the same level tone throughout: reliable but not quite elevated. One reason for this might be the sheer number of tracks on the setlist (20!). Often mistaken for a brand new artist, Rag’n’Bone Man actually has accumulated many years’ worth of songs, some of which are lesser known. For example, Wolves, which opened the show, No Mother and Life in Her Yet, a poignant tribute to his grandmother co-written with Rationale, were all taken from a 2014 release. Album tracks like The Fire and Your Way or the Rope showcased his deep, booming soul voice and gritty falsetto, but performances risked blurring into one and had only subtle differentiations from the recorded versions. It was the less-expected elements like refreshing rapping on Ego, and the slow, tender Odetta that broke the trance.
The more memorable moments accompanied the most recognisable songs, arguably his strongest. Skin was spine-tingling and stripped back with just a keyboard arrangement, whilst Human utilised all seven band members including brass duo, and featured both a rap interlude and remix – although the number was almost ruined by the singer’s laughing fit following an audience member’s random declaration of “My sister fancies you!”.
By the time the encore came around, it was hard to imagine what tracks hadn’t already been played. Brand new song Don’t Set the World on Fire, performed on an acoustic guitar, was a glimpse of things to come and the first time the singer had picked up an instrument. It was followed by Bitter End (not the bitter end just yet), concluding with a rousing Hell Yeah. All throughout the set, Graham spoke about being “f***ing nervous” to be playing such a big, iconic venue – one he had actually supported Bastille at almost exactly four years earlier. However, with his huge, flawless voice flooding the room effortlessly, it’s easy to imagine Rag’n’Bone man playing – and selling out – even larger venues in the near future.
Photos: Kimberley Archer
For further information and future events visit the Rag’n’Bone Man website here.
Watch the video for As You Are here: