Rag’n’Bone Man was one of the first artists’ to return to the live stage as the lockdown restrictions started to ease where an emotional Rory, aka Rag’n’Bone Man, wowed the 300 capacity Jazz Café. When you have music videos that have received over one billion views and initially have the fastest-selling 2021 LP for a solo artist with Life by Misadventure, one is destined to showcase their work to a much wider audience. Rory took up this challenge and performed to a full 8,000 capacity, Hammersmith Apollo.
Unlike at the Jazz Café, there was an impressive showcase of LED lighting amidst dark stage backdrops. Before Rag’n’Bone Man and his band approached, darkness overcame the Apollo with intense incidental music before lights shone on Rory and his band (one trumpeter, two guitarists, one bassist, one drummer, two backing singers and one organist). Whilst the audience for most of this performance would remain stoic, they more than compensated for this with ecstatic cheers, screaming, jubilations and wolf-whistling for Rag’n’Bone Man, who opened the set with the guitar indie/rock-based “All You Ever Wanted” from his latest Life by Misadventure LP. Rory then played “Fall in Love Again” from this LP before playing “Skin” from the LP Human, which made Rag’n’Bone Man a household name.
The majority of this set consisted of new material from Life by Misadventure. However, Rory did increase the number of songs he played from his former Human LP and material from his earlier 2014 and 2015 EP’s Wolves and Disfigured. As Rory sang “Perfume”, he enchanted the Apollo with the high notes he was able to reach and make it easy doing so. “Perfume” began with just the organ and developed with marching band drumming before his band ensemble all collectively joined in.
Rag’n’Bone Man opened up about his private life, saying how he saw his father as a “hero” growing up, and now that he was a father, he realised how much parents “wing” parenthood which influenced his newest material. Rory also discussed how much of the new material was written in Nashville. The irony was that the new song “Old Habits”, which he didn’t write in Nashville, was probably the most country sounding song he had ever written. One sensed strong country vibes as this song was performed, which also captured the audience with its profound opening lyrics, “You’ve been drinking red wine like its water. The cocaine makes it hard for me to see….”
When an artist becomes as successful as Rag’n’Bone Man, other artists want to remix your material. Rory was so impressed with Nothing But Thieves rearrangements of “Alone” that he performed it live. The rock anthem vibe interpretation of this song was ideally suited for the Apollo. “Human”, his most famous hit, was dropped just before the encore and felt refreshed with additional emphasis on the guitars, accompanied by trumpets. To fans delight, “Human” was extended with quirky and suave piano riffs. Upon returning from an encore, Rory asked the Apollo several times if he could get a “Hell Yeah”. Each time they responded, they did so with additional enthusiasm. Rag’n’Bone Man then played “Hell Yeah” from his Wolves EP.
As Rag’n’Bone Man did at the Jazz Café, he played out his set with the upbeat Calvin Harris song “Giants”, which he provided vocals to. The audience, who had, for the most part, remained seated and sedentary, were now standing and dancing with their hands in the air whilst singing, cheering, and screaming and not forgetting, wolf-whistling.
Rag’n’Bone Man proved at the Hammersmith Apollo, as with the colossal number of streams and record sales he has amassed and the high calibre of artists he has collaborated with (Calvin Harris, Pink and Jorja Smith), that as a live artist, he is a true “Giant”.
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