For myself, and a few others, it is almost a tradition to pay the band a visit every time they come to Swansea. This November marks the third time I have seen Brother and Bones in Sin City. It surprises me that Brother and Bones continue to come to South Wales every time they tour, to the point where I had to ask band member Robin Howell-Sprent what it is about Sin City that compels them to return annually. The percussionist replied that Brother and Bones “always get a good reaction from the fans in Swansea”, and to the band, that is what makes gigging worthwhile.
Singer-songwriter Dave Thomas was the first act of the night. Stepping on stage with nothing but his acoustic guitar, he quickly set the mood for the upcoming bands with some relaxing songs, channelling artists such as Jason Mraz and Newton Faulkner; the latter having graced the Sin City stage a few weeks before.
Also supporting Brother and Bones, for the second year in a row, were Welsh band Written in Kings. Although I didn’t get the chance to speak to them after the gig, they gave the impression that they were keen to use their passion for music to make a name for themselves. An ambitious young band, Written in Kings are unique in the sense that they alternate between using electric instruments to create an indie vibe, and using acoustic guitars and banjos to echo an alternative folk sound. The vocal harmonies between the guitarists suited the style of the songs beautifully, with ‘You’re Wanted’ being a personal favourite.
Supporting act Written in Kings
When it came to the end of the supporting acts, I sacrificed my need for nicotine, and the fact that my bladder was about to explode, to wait for Brother and Bones to appear on stage. And oh god, it was worth it. Opening with ‘Wicked Man’, the band created an exciting and captivating atmosphere which lasted from the beginning of the set to the very end. Aided by dynamic rhythm from both a traditional drum kit and various other percussion instruments, every song is a pounding eruption that grabs you by the shoulders and forces you to move to the music. The sound of the bass and the pitch of the lead guitar go well together, and combined with the frontman’s acoustic chords, the music is animated by the three guitarists throwing themselves across the stage. ‘Hold me like the Sun’ is always a crowd favourite, and gets everybody dancing every time. And when (not if) you fall in love with Rich Thomas’ voice after he performs ‘Gold and Silver’ alone on stage, you’re hooked for life.
I must draw attention to the fact that a few weeks prior to seeing Brother and Bones, I went to see Alterbridge (supported by Shinedown and Halestorm) at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. Alterbridge, Shinedown and to some extent, Halestorm, are well established bands and they have played some of the biggest arenas in the world; however, not one of these could hold a candle to Brother and Bones in terms of energy, charisma or showmanship. From the moment Brother and Bones step on stage they play their hearts and souls out. There is none of the snobbery toward smaller venues/cities which can be found with a lot of musicians and bands of late. To these guys every gig is an opportunity to showcase their talent.
The band has recently released another EP, ‘To Be Alive’, which reached the Top 10 in the iTunes Rock Charts. After hearing the EP on record as well as hearing it live, it is something I can’t recommend enough. I spoke to humble frontman Rich after the gig (and after hugs, handshakes and photographs), who indicated that the band are already planning their tour for next year, and will be playing as many different towns and cities as possible, including good old Swansea.
To Be Alive – The band’s latest EP
Personally, I found that the only disappointing thing about the night was the crowd. It may well have been due to the Swansea v Cardiff football match that was on that day, but the number of people in Sin City was a lot lower than it has been in previous years. It will always be problematic for bands to put on a good show when they play small venues such as Sin City, but it must be all the more difficult when there isn’t much of a reaction from the crowd, let alone when there’s barely anyone there. Despite this, all three acts played brilliantly, and each performed with enough energy to fill the empty space.
By Rhian Evans