When a quintet of men with unkempt hair and conspicuous tattoos appear on stage, you have to admit that the last thing you'd expect to subsequently witness is a heart-wrenching rendition of indie folk encompassing truly beautiful lyrics. Yet, this was the scene tonight as Dry the River played at the Norwich Arts Centre and it made for one of the most captivating live performances I have seen in a long while.
The band opened with single No Rest which provided the immediately entranced audience with a flawless taster of what could be expected from the subsequent set-list. The voracious guitar chords that consumed not only this opening track, but also the consecutive songs were softened by the presence of gentle violin harmonies that had been carefully interweaved. Combined with Peter Liddle's resplendent vocals, this more placid instrumental inclusion provided a well-balanced contrast to the heavier elements that also comprise their sound.
The boisterous resonance of New Ceremony saw the tone amped-up and provided the opportunity for both the audience and the band to get their feet moving. Heavier guitar riffs played at this point were more reflective of the group's overall image but throughout this furore, the fervour and soul of their sound's essence were not once lost. A rendition of Weights and Measures undeniably provided the most memorable point of the evening. Gone in the opening verse were the gentle guitar accompaniments we'd become accustomed to by this point, and in their place was a spectacular a capella rendition involving all five members. The effect was utterly spine tingling and the audience were hushed into such silence that you could have heard a pin drop.
Despite the band working together consummately, the most noteworthy element of Dry the River's live performance tonight was birthday boy Liddle's soaring choral-esque vocals. They filled the old church venue not only rather aptly, but also with a passionate conviction that permeated all those fortunate enough to be in the room. The rising and falling harmonies could easily have seen his vocals misfire but at no point did they falter or waver - a feat that many of his musical peers would have trouble boasting.
The band is far from another pretentious folk-rock outfit, however. With a set-list written on a banana and intermittent banter with the crowd, it was refreshing to see a more light-hearted side to the group alongside their pensive musical countenance. Bassist, Scott Miller, joked that we should buy their album so they can 'all afford Ferraris but even if you don't want to fund the band's automotive pipedreams, do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy anyway because this is one band who should not be absent from your music library'.