After the release of Alarms in the Heart earlier this year, East London rockers Dry the River set off on a North American tour, alongside Nathaniel Rateliff and Animal Flag. The other night, Dry the River made a pit stop in Boston at Brighton Music Hall. The crowd was littered with couples and light beer. Although not sold-out, the few locals that ventured out on a Tuesday night came with their high expectations and higher energy.
Nathaniel Rateliff played for a bluesy half-hour, ripe with his crisp vocals and a heavy-eyed backing band. His confidence and humor with the audience helped loosen everyone up, and his booming voice commanded their attention. He played a few “sad songs about sex,” as he put it, and told the audience that he would wink at them during the chorus of “Three Fingers In.” In any other context, winking would be off-putting and creepy, but Rateliff’s mid-western charm was as quirky as it was genuine. The audience cheered as exuberantly for Rateliff as a standard crowd would applaud the headliners.
A few moments later, Dry the River took the stage, complete with long greasy hair, one man-bun, and bassist Scott Miller’s wonderful shirt, which had two red roses near his shoulders. It was the start to a romantic and powerful evening. Dry the River’s setlist, in order, contained “Hidden Hand,” “New Ceremony,” “Family,” “Alarms in the Heart,” “Gethsemane,” “Bible Belt,” “Everlasting Light,” “Rollerskate,” “Lion’s Den,” “It Was Love That Laid Us Low,” “Vessel,” “Hope Diamond,” and “No Rest.” They returned to a thunderous audience with a melancholy take on “History Book,” and finalized their set with the crowd-favorite “Weights & Measures.”
Throughout the set, lead singer, Peter Liddle, self-consciously kept apologizing for playing primarily new songs, but I’m not sure he needed to given the audience’s reactions. Every song sounded very similar to album quality. Although sounding great, there was an obvious sense that they were still trying to get comfortable playing their new tracks live and an underlying unease about how well its being received by the public. However, the greatest moments during their set was when Liddle zoned out of his surroundings and belted his delicate vocals. The first time he lost it was on “Family,” when he wails, “Here comes the breath, comes the unwanted guest,” and it was glorious.
On “Vessel,” Dry the River changed it up by adding in a violin and the ever-talented Matthew Taylor played his guitar with a bow. The strings sounded clear and highlighted Liddle’s vocals wonderfully. Closing the set with “No Rest” surmounted everything and closed the night on the utmost note, with the whole crowd singing, “I loved you in the best way possible.” Recent singles, “Gethsemane” and “Everlasting Light,” were very polished and whimsical, but were played a little too stiff for the crowd’s liveliness. In the encore, they caught a second wind, and felt more at ease with the audience. After ending with “Weights & Measures,” Liddle full-heartedly bowed and thanked the fans repeatedly, showing his sincerity to the awe-stricken crowd.
During Dry the River’s not-so-momentous parts of their songs, Liddle’s vocals took a step back into the mix and didn’t stand out quite as they should have. Although Dry the River are obviously very talented musicians, Liddle’s voice is what elevates the music and defines them. When Dry the River break out of their comfort zone, alter their songs, or indulge themselves solely in the music is when they are at their brightest. The deafening cheers from the small audience on their final tracks prove it.