The Broken Witt Rebels brought their unique blend of heavy blues, high energy rock, southern soul and Americana to north London last Tuesday, during a tour for their debut album which they’ve just released.
The opening song of their set, ‘Low,’ which first featured on the band’s ‘Georgia Pine’ EP, has a lumbering, monster riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Black Sabbath song, before it moves into more typically bluesy territory. What’s immediately apparent on first hearing the Broken Witt Rebels tonight is how extensive touring has built them into such a tight unit – and why they’ve been heralded as one of the most exciting live acts in the country.
Danny Core is the immediate focal point for the band, and while he also joins in playing rhythm guitar on a number of songs, it’s when he’s in the grip of his manic style of soulful hollering that the band’s distinctive sound is most evident. The reach of his vocal style – compared not unfairly to Joe Cocker – gives them a huge head start over so many of their peers, but that isn’t to diminish the impact of the rest of the band, and on the song, ‘Howlin’, James Tranter gets his first opportunity to demonstrate his prowess by letting rip with a squalling guitar solo.
Directly afterwards, Danny Core makes an announcement about how pleased the band are to finally have their debut out after such a long time, before heading into the song, ‘Breathless,’ which includes a three guitar attack.
Being out on the road in the United States has clearly acted as a spur to further the band’s songwriting ambitions, and the Rebels feature two new songs tonight that they’ve written while touring, ‘Fearless’ and ‘Give It Up.’ With the former, James Tranter gets to include the solo from Hendrix’s, ‘Hey Joe,’ while ‘Give It Up’ starts as a slow, bluesy number before building to a rousing crescendo.
‘Wait For You,’ the first single which is due to feature from the debut album – with its call and response “woah-ohs” – then prompts an audience singalong. ‘I Put A Spell on You,’ which follows directly after, the only cover of the night, gives Tranter the opportunity to solo with impunity, while Danny Core is again able to stretch his vocal chords to the max, before the whole band rocks out in grand style. For ‘Turn Me On,’ both Danny Core and James Tranter move out into the audience for a nice spot of audience participation, Tranter playing an unplugged electric guitar acoustic style, with Danny Core singing off mike.
As the band charge towards the end of their set, they finish with some of their best songs, the blistering, ‘Snake Eyes,’ and fan favourite, ‘Guns,’ which has clear influences from 80s era British bands like Def Leppard allied to Appetite for Destruction era Guns and Roses. To round off the evening, the band shift down a gear for their final song, ‘Shake Me Down,’ the song that probably most closely resembles the Alabama Shakes in their set , with its loose, soulful rock sound – a subtler venture with greater emphasis on melody and dynamic shifts rather than the raw power of their earlier numbers.
Earlier on tonight, the song, ‘Georgia Pine,’ probably best exemplifies the mindset and attitude of where the Broken Witt Rebels have arrived at now – the song title originating from an old stoner reference about being as high as a Georgia Pine. If this proves to be a metaphor for the band’s aspiration to ascend to be the highest musical outfit on the circuit, then they set about their task in admirable fashion tonight.