The Revival Tour @ The Garage, Glasgow

In the days of a darker past when an ailing economy left people struggling to fend for themselves and wars in far-off places tore communities apart it was left to the tradition of folk music to bring people together under a common cause.

With The Revival Tour Chuck Ragan has curated an event which seeks to breathe new life into those long abandoned traditions.  While much has changed in the world, with listeners music choices evolving and the iPod and tablet devices making the art and increasingly personal experience, some things always retain that sense of familiarity.  People are once at the mercy of a strangling economy, like their ancestors in the 1920’s and 30’s, while global conflicts are seemingly boiling daily.  Now more than ever the celebration of folk music can bring people together and give the voiceless a voice.  Here Chuck Ragan sought to do that with his talented collection of collaborators, amongst them Cory Branan, Emily Barker, Jay Malinkowski and Rocky Votolato.

This was a relentless three hour extravaganza of guitars, harmonica, banjos, fiddles, double bass and just about every other instrument you could fit onto a stage.

It is novel to see an artist, or a group of artists, enjoy performing as much as the audience enjoys a performance, but here the enthusiasm was coursing through the veins of The Garage.  The camaraderie on stage fuelled the appetite of the audience.

The format of The Revival Tour ensures that there is always something happening.  There is no support act and so no impatient pause before the headline set, and no false goodbyes before the ‘surprise’ encore.  The entire group of musicians – at least eight or nine – open and close the set, with each individual artist afforded a 20-30 minute set in between to perform their own material.  The real beauty is that you don’t know what to expect next.  There are collaborations all through the night as different artists and new instruments bound on and off stage to assist in each individual set.  When one considers that the artists have been assembled only months beforehand for the sole purpose of this tour it is extraordinary how they click together like seasoned veterans.

Cory Branan had the audience in spells of laughter with his quirky lyrics and deadpan delivery, almost spoken in a manner similar to Tom Waits or Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.  Emily Barker blew us away with her harmonica laced set while Chuck Ragan’s gravel voice and multi-instrumental talent brought the house down, particularly when he teased a future Hot Water Music tour before playing Drag My Body Down.

There are a multitude of acts on the road today – perhaps more than at any time in history – but there is nothing like The Revival Tour.  This is a unique experience where a collection of immensely talented individual musicians have assembled to guarantee a great night of music in the finest tradition of the art.

The Revival Tour

The Revival Tour is a collaborative event formed by Chuck Ragan in 2008 with the intention of returning to the traditions and spirit of folk music.  It’s the concept of friends and families and communities coming together to share music.

Joining Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) on the 2011 tour are Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem), Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) and Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio).  Each artist was given a thirty minute set to perform their own songs, often joined by one or two of the others, with all four combining on songs between the sets.

Upon entering the ABC it quickly became evident that this was going to be quite a spectacle, with a range of guitars and violins and harmonicas and a double bass lining the stage.  Each of those instruments would be used to full effect over the next two and a half hours, and the first highlight of the night came a couple of songs in when the four men performed The Gaslight Anthem’s Great Expectations.

I don’t think that in my wildest dreams I could ever have imagined Gaslight Anthem songs being played in such a folk setting, with three acoustic guitars, a violin and a double bass, but that’s what happened last night, and it worked.  Great Expectations, American Slang, The ‘59 Sound, Old White Lincoln and Boxer all took on an entirely different meaning last night, and in a Brian Fallon set which also included my two favourite songs from the Horrible Crowes record – Behold The Hurricane and Ladykiller – as well as a beautiful performance of the old-school Blue Jeans & White T-Shirt and a couple of new songs, Fallon was elevated into iconic status.

Fallon aside, Chuck Ragan’s talent stood out amongst the group.  That was always going to be the case from the moment he took an harmonica to his mouth.  His voice was probably the strongest of the group and his harmonica playing was as good as I’ve heard live – and that includes the likes of Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and even Neil Young.

Dan Andriano was probably the most utilised artist of the night, playing a role in (I think) everyone’s set while Dave Hause had a boundless energy.  I’m definitely keen to hear some more Loved Ones material.

This was a non-stop, foot-stomping experience.  There wasn’t the usual lull between the support act and the headliner, no breaks between sets.  It was two-and-a-half continuous hours of acoustic folk music.  You didn’t know who was going to play next, who would collaborate with who.

It was a brilliant gig.  It honestly might not be a stretch to declare it the best of the year.  And the really great thing about it all was seeing how much the musicians enjoyed playing their music.  They were having a great time, and the audience were too.

A truly great night.  If The Revival Tour is coming to a town near you in the following weeks, and you have any love for music at all, then you’ll go and check it out.