Live Review: These Wicked Rivers and Oil Brown & The Dead Collective – Night & Day, Manchester – 19 May 2024



With less than a week to go before the start of a nine date UK tour, the news that She Burns Red had been forced to withdraw as support act could not have come at a worse time. But cometh the hour, cometh the woman in the form of These Wicked Rivers manager (and The Hot Damn! drummer) Josie O’Toole who quickly assembled a fantastic set of support acts for the tour. With each band doing a couple of dates across the tour, Manchester’s Night & Day Café crowd were treated to Oli Brown & The Dead Collective.  

In marked contrast to the hippy vibe of the TWR stage set up, The Dead Collective favour a stark, almost dystopian setting for their brooding and complex music. Muted lighting, interspersed by brilliant flashes from the harsh strip lights, makes for an intense atmosphere (and a challenging night for photographers!) as we are immersed into set openers Father and Heard It All Before. The interplay between Oli and fellow guitarist Sam Wood is a joy to see as they craft huge soundscapes, backed by Wayne Proctor on drums. You can tell from the smiles on their faces that they are enjoying every minute as they weave around each other centre stage, embracing the rising crescendos of sound and light that ebb back into dark melancholy. Oli doesn’t say much between songs, but he doesn’t need to as the music speaks volumes. New song Goliath raises expectations for the band’s debut album with some aggressive guitarwork before it is replaced by Haunted’s epic feel. The vocals are especially impassioned, while the guitars swoop and dive, creating a thrilling ride. Your Love is almost too fragile to exist in a harsh reality, with its delicate vocals threatening heartbreak and every possible ounce of emotion wrung out of the guitars. Tonight’s all too brief set draws to a close with Home Sweet Home, which is a masterpiece in the craft of songwriting. Starting with quiet introspection before slowly but surely building towards one final exhausting climax, you feel that you have been taken on an emotional journey by the time the song, and the set, comes to its final conclusion.

Oil Brown & The Dead Collective


After the success of their album celebration event for Force of Nature back in March and riding the crest of a wave after a well-received jaunt around Europe, These Wicked Rivers are on a high as they start their headline tour of the UK. They have grown a devoted fan base through sheer hard work and many members of the Wicked Rivers Family are present tonight for what promises to be a wondrous evening. Bedecked, as ever, in hippy throws and standard lamps the Night & Day stage has been transformed into Nana’s living room in anticipation of a night of pure rock n’ roll pleasure. Kicking off the set with the aptly titled Force of Nature, the band are firing on all cylinders from the start. John Hartwell’s deep and luscious vocals are counterbalanced perfectly by guitarist Arran Day’s distinctive style making These Wicked Rivers instantly recognisable amongst a crowded field of modern rock hopefuls. Indeed, it is hard to pigeonhole their sound: there are elements of the blues, southern rock, swamp rock and ’60s psychedelia all melded together through the prism of Gretsch guitars driven through Blackstar amps to create a simply gorgeous tone. Shine On, from debut album Eden, raises the energy in the room and sees Arran throwing some trademark guitar hero shapes before we segue into Black Gold and its attack on the politics and hypocrisy of the oil industry. Without drawing breath we jump straight into Evergreen, with its stop-start drum pattern courtesy of Dan Southall and yet another fretboard flurry from Arran.

Reeling from the aural onslaught we finally pause as John greets the ecstatic crowd with a cheery ‘thank you very much’ in his broad Derbyshire twang. It really is a joy to see everyone both on stage and off having such a good time, and we’re only four songs into the set! Heading back to 2015’s The Enemy EP, the mood changes as the melancholic The Bottom of Here showcases another, darker side to TWR’s personality. In the grand tradition of the blues, songs about the very darkest of times can paradoxically make you feel good. As John bears his soul and Arran teases out a plaintive solo full of pain and emotion, there is a liberating sense of joy as you are immersed in the moment. That Girl bounds along like an excited Labrador puppy with its lolloping riff before we come up to date with Riverboat Man from the new album. There is a swagger in the riff at the heart of the song, underpinned by Rich Wilson’s delicious keyboard tone, which carries you off to the age of the Mississippi Delta Riverboat gamblers. Special mention should also be made of Adam Brewell, from The Howling Tides, who is standing in on bass duties for this tour and is clearly having the time of his life.

Time now to turn to the introspective When the War is Won, originally released on 2017’s EP II and re-recorded for the Force of Nature. This is another dark and brooding tale with a gut-wrenching vocal delivery from John and an oh so sweet guitar solo. The song slowly builds towards its emotional climax, leaving you drained and exhausted before we head back to the river for Lord Knows. With an almost evangelical feel, the pace picks up once more as we praise the gods of the waterways and sing hallelujah! Pausing for John to change to an acoustic guitar and for the rest of the band to leave the stage, we come to the moment of greatest vulnerability in the show in the form of Lonely Road. This simple story of a broken heart is almost too painful to witness, yet I wouldn’t miss it for the world. There is a fragile beauty in the vocals, which threaten to crack and tumble into despair, that sends a shiver down your spine. This is a man who has stared into the darkest abyss and we are not sure if he is ever coming back. There is silence as the final notes echo around the room, before rapturous applause is acknowledged with a cheery thank you. We then continue in a semi acoustic vein with Just to be a Man which is another brooding morality story in the tradition of Skynyrd’s Simple Man.

After all of this introspection, it is time to lighten the mood and raise the energy levels once more as the set moves inexorably towards its conclusion. Enter Floyd, the backwoods man who metes out judgement on the sinners of the town, and one of the standout tracks from Eden. As Arran dashes off yet another flourish on the guitar and throws more rockstar shapes, we are encouraged to Testify; although I doubt that your Bible-loving granny would approve of the lyrics. Testify is very rude indeed (if you don’t believe me go back and listen to the words!); it is also very catchy and a lot of fun. Last song proper of the set is The Family, which is dedicated to the ever-growing Wicked Rivers Family of loyal fans who have followed the band through the good times and the bad. The band know that they wouldn’t be where they are today without the fans and the love is reciprocated and celebrated as we all come together as members of the Salvation Society.

The band could leave the stage and dance the encore dance; but as John explains, it took him long enough to get up on stage that it’s not worth wasting time with what has become a dying pretence. Instead, they launch into their signature set closing song, the epic Don’t Pray For Me. This single song captures everything that you need to know about These Wicked Rivers: it is a morality tale, it has passionate and heartfelt vocals, it builds slowly raising the temperature as it progresses and it has a kickass solo at its core which allows Arran to make the most of his newly resprayed double neck guitar. As Dan’s double kick drives the song towards the final conclusion, we take a diversion into Neil Young’s Hey Hey, My My before Arran’s final frenzied fretwork and Rich’s keyboard flourish draw the night to a glorious end. Standing on the edge of the stage handing out tulips to the happy and smiling faces in the audience, the band can be rightly pleased with their performance tonight. If you get a chance to catch These Wicked Rivers at a venue near you, I highly recommend that you do so.

These Wicked Rivers


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