A Updated

Southern California’s finest brought a bit of warmth to a chilly South Yorkshire


Sheffield: The Corporation – 8 February 2023

It has become quite the norm in recent years for support bands to be given thirty-minute acoustic slots. The latter obviously reduces costs and makes setting up for the headliners a much simpler job. This evening’s support came from duo Meghan Parnell and Dave Barnes, who are normally part of a seven-piece Southern Soul, Roots Rock band out of Toronto called Bywater Call.

Meghan Parnell is quite diminutive in stature, but definitely not in the vocal department with an immense Southern Blues /Rock timbre as exhibited on opening numbers ‘Lover Down Soul’ and ‘Been Gone’. Barnes got to show off some terrific acoustic guitar during the cover of Elmore James & His Broom Dusters’ ‘Rollin’ & Tumbin’’, old-style Honky-Tonk Blues.

Parnell chatted briefly in between each song including to tell the ever-increasing crowd that ‘Talking Backwards’ was written about a guy back in their hometown who did not know about personal space! ‘Silver Lining’ concluded the six-song set, and as they left the stage to appreciative applause Parnell promised to be back in October with the full band.

Setlist: Lover Down Soul / Been Gone / Swing Low / Rollin’ & Tumblin’ / Talking Backwards / Silver Lining

The first time I saw the excellent Robert Jon & The Wreck was at The Brudenell Venue in Leeds. At the time, we here in the UK were just emerging out of COVID restrictions, so there were only a couple of hundred fans in attendance. Eight months later, at the same venue, that number had nearly doubled, and tonight it looked to have doubled again with a near capacity-crowd at The Corporation, turning out for the second night of the UK tour. Remarkably, this was the first occasion that Robert Jon & The Wreck had graced the stage in Sheffield.

As the five musicians took to the stage with a backdrop of the band’s logo adorned behind the drum kit, there seemed to be a long delay before they eventually opened with ‘Pain No More’. As previously mentioned, this was the third time seeing the Southern Blues Rockers, and again the set list was different; this was my personal favourite due to a couple of songs that I’ll mention later. The sound and mix were relatively good. Unfortunately, despite the great atmosphere generated at The Corporation, its acoustics are its major downside. Fortunately, they did not ruin tonight’s entertainment.

‘Do You Remember’ with its real Allman Brothers-vibe featured an extended solo by Henry James at the end, the first of many. Continuing the Southern Blues feel, ‘Rescue Train’ featured some exquisite slide guitar, followed by a keyboard solo by Jake Abernathie, who along with band leader Robert Jon Burrison, look like they’d just stepped off the set of an old Western with their full beards and cowboy hats. Both band members juxtaposed to the slender, Afro-haired James, whose ability on the six-string is frightening. The tight rhythm section of bassist Warren Murrel, replete with shades, and the ever-enthusiastic, long-haired drummer Andrew Espantman look like guys who went to college, got in a band, and were having so much fun, decided never to leave!

A short drum solo paved way for a stonkin’ rendition of ‘Waiting For Your Man’. Another extended guitar solo featured in ‘When I Die’ from the 2015’s ‘Glory Bound’ album, whilst ‘Who Can You Love’ highlighted some fine backing vocals by drummer and guitarist to ably support Robert Jon’s gravelly, soulful lead vocals. The latter came to the fore with the epic ballad ‘Gold’, which was a personal highlight as this was the first time I’d seen it performed live by the band.

The crowd-pleasing Southern Blues of ‘Oh Miss Carolina’ was followed by the Blues Brothers’ inspired ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ that had The Corporation bouncing. A short instrumental jam session preceded the final song of the main set, the stellar ‘Cold Night’ where James goes all ‘Free Bird’ during the phenomenal solos.

The band briefly left the stage before James returned for an individual solo, just in case any of the audience had fallen asleep during the last hour and a half plus! He was joined by his fellow bandmates as he began the intro to my favourite song in their impressive back-catalogue, the title track to their 2020 opus ‘Last Light On The Highway’. It was a fitting way to conclude a superb evening’s entertainment where Southern California’s finest brought a bit of warmth to a chilly South Yorkshire.

Setlist: Pain No More / Do You Remember / Come At Me / She’s A Fighter / Ride Into The Light / Waiting For Your Man / Rescue Train / When I Die / Who Can You Love / Gold / Oh Miss Carolina / Shine A Light On Me Brother / Cold Night

Encore: Last Light On The Highway Pt.1 / Last Light On The Highway Pt.2

Review by: Mark Donnelly
Photographs: Neil Cripps c/o @RocknewsUK

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