LIVE REVIEW: Rag'n'Bone Man at Jazz Café London

Rag'n'Bone Man
Credit: Fiona Garden

It is fair to say that Rag‘n’Bone Man had some luck in his corner as he played out his third and final nights’ residency at the Jazz Café in Camden, London. England has just beaten Germany 2-0 in the Euro 2020 football championships, which provided an elation and positivity that made the audience forget that they were still living restrictive measures as the global COVID pandemic was still at large.

Whether it was England earning a place in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals, live music still only just starting to show green shoots or Rag‘n’Bone Man himself (who to date has got the fastest-selling 2021 LP for a solo artist with Life by Misadventure); the crowd were ready for not quite riotous fun (the Jazz Café is far too cool and smooth for that) but for an evening of entertainment worthy of celebration.

Accompanied with a seven-piece band (one trumpeter, two guitarists, one bassist, one drummer, two backing singers and one organist), Rory, aka Rag‘n’Bone Man, approached the stage tall and proud accompanied with a handkerchief whilst dressed in a denim gilet, gold watch and gold chain with black denim jeans and greeted the packed Jazz Café which captivated the mood by saying “Hello it’s been a while hasn’t it”.

When you currently have the fastest-selling solo LP of the year, it makes sense to start with a track from it. The set was introduced with “Fireflies”. The folk acoustic guitar immediately gripped the audience who were drawn, not just to the collective band cacophony, but to Rag‘n’Bone Man’s heartfelt emotions as he sang, “Don’t let fear be a thorn in your side keep….” Another new song, piano-based “Fall in Love Again”, followed before he sang his classic “Skin”, which Rory had previously performed with Jorja Smith at the 2018 BRITs, where the artist demonstrated a wide spectrum of his vocal capabilities.

The majority of the set featured songs from Life by Misadventure which Rag‘n’Bone Man had written a significant amount of it with his guitarist Ben Jackson-Cook. For an artist whose vocals are ethereally entrenched in soul; Rag‘n’Bone Man was able to bring his natural vocals to the guitar indie/rock-based “All You Ever Wanted”. The Jazz Café was mesmerised, not so much because they were in the mood for a summer rock song, but rather they were witnessing an artist who was demonstrating his ability to bring the diverse and antithetical sounds of folk, dub, soul, R'n'B, blues and indie together and unite an audience with his unique blend.

Throughout his sixteen song set, Rory flexed his vocal muscles with the emotional fuelled, and synth layered “Changing of the Guard” with the lyrics “This could tear apart a better man”. The blues and funk were introduced with “Time Will Only Tell” which saw Rag‘n’Bone Man getting philosophical, questioning “, Is there an afterlife? Or is there only this? Do we spend it all now? Do we save our chips?” As well as the single featuring Pink “Anyway Away From Here”, an anthem “, Party's Over” proved jubilant with Queen style guitar riffs.

With a seven-piece backing band, Rory could have just stood out in front and protrude into the microphone; he didn’t, Rory consistently took up the acoustic and electric guitars. He also told the Jazz Café about himself from his political leanings, the reason he carried a handkerchief on stage and comparing not playing live “to missing a testicle”. Even more impressively, Rag‘n’Bone Man maintained momentum without an encore or playing out with “Human” (the penultimate live track) instead, played out with the upbeat Calvin Harris song (which he provided vocals to) “Giant”.

As well as being able to unite antithetical sounds together; what won the crowd over was not Rory pretending to be an Übermensch who will save people and show them a new dawn; it was Rory’s ability to share his vulnerabilities in an intimate setting that reminded the audience that the everyday people possess the gifts and talents that can and must be shared as Rag‘n’Bone Man did with his gift of music at the Jazz Café. If feedback is to be given to Rag‘n’Bone Man, it’s not to stop sharing his music.

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