Wednesday 20 February 2019

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man soothes the soul at Trinity Summer Series

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Back in the balmy outdoor parkland at Trinity College it’s great to see that the fans have not brought deckchairs to watch Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. And, though he is only 33, it is all ages of soul searchers who have come to absorb the indie performer’s melancholy lyrics in an uplifting beat.

Opening his set with Wolves, there is a Deep South feel in the atmosphere. I then realise it’s the sweet smoky smell of barbecue floating across the grounds. And the audience in shorts and baseball caps. Yes, it definitely feels, smells and sounds like being in cowboy country. The man on stage has the voice of an angel, often compared to Adele. His presence is not that of a hipster, in fact he has quite the goatee gone wild. It makes him all the more interesting. Before I knew the name, I already loved his song ‘Human’ and his deep baritone voice.

 

R’n’B is a clever cover name for Rory Graham, who comes from Uckfield in Sussex but sounds like a global preacher in his lyrics; ‘I’m only human, don’t put your blame on me’ has an episcopal challenge to it.

 

His ability to undulate from jazz to funk to soul sounds wonderful on a live stage. Like a gentle giant, he commands the open grounds with his seven-piece band, including a lively brass section sporting trumpet and trombone, and Motown-style backing singers.

 

His songs ‘Grace’, ‘Your way or the Rope, ‘Odetta’ seem to have a meditative influence on the audience. Then he tells us how surprised and delighted he is that so many have turned up to hear him. And then reignites with his funereal “Lay my body down… save your prayers, don’t shed a tear for me.”

 

One of my favourite all time songs is Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ and I hear an essence of it in Bitter End. And then ‘Skin’ rocks the audience with ‘when the walls came down, I was thinking about you, about you.’

 

His album ‘Human’ won the BBC Music Award for British Album of the Year in 2017. And he’s on a roll, at the 2018 Brit Awards, he was nominated for British Album of the Year and British Male Solo Artist, and won the award for British Single of the Year for ‘Human’.

 

The band set off ‘Human’ in an alternative funky sound, and the lights blaze on stage. In that song, he has renewed a word we take for granted, it’s what we are, not what we should try to be.

 

Live music not only offers a great night out, but Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and his soulful jazz/Motown sound adds a spiritual escapism. As surprised as he was at the big audience, I was surprised at the upbeat mood, despite the sad notes.  He is a great headliner for the Trinity Summer Series and I’d definitely go to his next open-air concert.

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