Live Review: Rhodes and Friends Rip Up the Columbus
Monday, March 07, 2016
Saturday March 5th was a memorable night of rock and roll at the Columbus Theatre in Providence. Two of Rhode Island’s favorite bands, Smith and Weeden and The Silks, opened up for Boston based blues rocker Julie Rhodes, who released her first album just a week ago. Rhodes was the headliner, but all three bands were over the top, playing some of their best shows to date.
The new album has been well received in the music press, and it is indeed an impressive debut. This being my first chance to catch her live, I wondered if Rhodes could live up to the hype. The answer – a resounding yes – she is clearly ready to take it to the next level. Don’t be surprised if you hear her name mentioned as a break out artist at SXSW, the celebrated Austin, TX music and arts festival, where she is headed next week.
Rhodes’ album was produced by musician Jonah Tolchin who “discovered” her a couple of years ago at one of his shows. She knows how to sing the blues, in the tradition of great artists like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Bonnie Raitt. She’s got a sweet down to earth stage presence in between songs, although she becomes almost possessed when singing. Rhodes has only been playing live for a couple of years, but she’s comfortable and completely in charge in stage.
Bound to Meet the Devil
Rhodes showed the Columbus Theatre audience a lot of vocal range while singing several from her just released album Bound to Meet the Devil. The Gospel tinged “Grinnin' in Your Face,” a classic delta blues, opened the set. She included the reggae influenced “Hey Stranger,” and the funky, horn backed “Hurricane,” where the blues singer shouted “I don’t mind a little rain sometime.”
“Key Won’t Unlock My Door,” a honky-tonk roadhouse rocker was another highlight. Rhodes gets down and dirty on the song, also found on her album. At times throughout the show, her five-piece band swelled to 13, including a horn section and backup vocalists.
“In Your Garden,” a tune that seems to be in “heavy rotation” online, was a show highlight. It’s not exactly a love song.
“Go on and leave me like another weed in your garden, Nothing I can say is going to make you stay.
Don’t call me when you know the flowers are gone, And your skies are cloudy and gray.
I ain’t gonna’ beg, no I ain’t gonna’ plead no more, You ain’t never given me one good thing to beg for.”
Covers and Influences
Rhodes covered a few classics including Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” and Etta James' “I’d Rather Go Blind,” where she really belted it out. Next up was an especially strong version of Aretha Franklin’s gem “I Never Loved a Man.”
The new album was partially recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where many great artists including Franklin, U2, and the Rolling Stones have recorded. That “Muscle Shoals Sound” was evident on the closer “Faith,” a powerful gospel blues. Behind the wailing guitar of Tolchin, the soulful background vocals, and the organ work of Brenden Moore, Rhodes dug deep, pushing this one along.
Rhodes has what it takes to succeed in the music business and will undoubtedly garner further attention. As mentioned, she’s headed to SXSW next week and we expect she’ll create some buzz and a gain lot of new fans. She’s young, and her artistry is still developing, but she’s definitely going places. Let’s hope she returns to RI soon!
Smith and Weeden/The Silks
Smith and Weeden got things started with a nice set of high energy country rock, with sounds reminiscent of The Band. Led by Jesse Emmanuel Smith and Seamus Weeden, the boys covered several from their 2014 self-titled album including the soldier’s story “Stuck Out Here.” The tune is a driving rocker that devolves into screaming guitars that overtake the lyrics like a missile honing in on its target.
“Stuck out here in Kandahar, I might not make it home,
I might be dead already living in a combat zone”
S&W also featured show-stopping organ work from Brandon Moore, Ollie Williams on bass and vocals and the dynamic drumming of Dylan Sevey.
Blues rock power trio The Silks have a distinctive sound that harkens back to the great rock bands of the 1970’s. Comprised of Tyler James Kelly on guitar, Jonas Parmalee on bass, and drummer Sam Jodrey, the band tore through a set of southern fried rock and roll, including several from their 2013 album, Last American Band. Highlights included “Mountain Man,” and “Trouble,” a bass driven rocker, with Kelly taking lead on two roaring guitar solos.
These two homegrown bands remind us that and rock and roll is very much alive in the 21st century. A few pedals and loud amps is all that’s needed - don’t let anyone tell you anything different!
If you like the Muscle Shoals sound, check out the Drive-By Truckers, coming to the Columbus on Wednesday March 9. An always diverse mix of future shows at the venue can be found here.
Ken Abrams reviews roots, rock and more for GoLocal. E-Mail him here.
Related Slideshow: Rhodes and Friends Rip Up the Columbus
Julie Rhodes, The Silks, and Smith and Weeden performed before a standing room only crowd at The Columbus Theatre in Providence on 3/5/16.
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