Merc Live: The Rifles

Final Merc Live gig
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It seems that fans of indie rock and rollers The Rifles aren’t afraid to brave torrential rain in order to see their favourite band perform at such an intimate venue as Gibson Guitar Studios. The downpour outside may have risen to biblical levels, however it didn’t stop the audience, (consisting of 90% men in their 20’s and 30’s), arriving in droves, wringing out their polo neck shirts and getting stuck into the free Tuborg on offer.

The band arrived on stage to a rousing round of applause that was quickly drowned out by lead singer Joel Stoker’s distorted guitar tearing into a blistering set that saw old favourites effortlessly segue into new numbers, both placating the fans that have been following the band for the better part of a decade and enticing a few newcomers, (mainly the WAGs of the fans), into the world of The Rifles. Despite the disproportionate amount of lads in the audience, the set was a cut above your average bloke-rock, with melodies that were subtle yet made sure that they had ingrained themselves in your consciousness before the three-minute song had finished. This classic pop trick of having the audience singing along by the third chorus fared them well, as the raw edge of the guitar tone saved them from nudging their personal credibility needle over into ‘commercial’, whilst still engaging the venue with rabble-raising anthems.

With two members of the band leaving last year, The Rifles new line up saw Lee Burgess and Kenton Shinn, (of the band Garda), replace Grant Marsh and Rob Pyne, with Dean Mumford playing keyboards for this live performance. With such a change within the group, one could expect the band to be a little off centre, however they were as tight as ever and were comfortable enough to partake in between-song banter, which included a shout out to one man in the audience who happened to have produced their latest album and apparently still owed them a McDonalds meal. This cheeky, irreverent approach was balanced out by fiercely thrashed out stompers such as ‘She’s Got Standards’, which featured a spiky yet incendiary lead guitar riff from Lucas Crowther, the likes of which we haven’t heard since The Libertines disbanded back in 2004.

The penultimate song ‘Romeo and Julie’ elicited the greatest response from the crowd, with a barrage of baritone voices offering ample harmonic support in the form of chanting during the chorus breaks, a true ‘glasses to the sky’ moment, affirming the promise that as long as the band continues then The Rifles’ fans will keep coming back for more, whatever the weather.

Words by David Harfield
Photo by Marc Sethi


View a photo gallery of the gig on ClashMusic.com HERE.

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