Opening with a floret of violins, long flowing locks and lunges, Dry the River radiated with the energy and stage presence of bedroom air-guitaring adolescents. They insisted on kicking guitars and chasing each other around the stage, displaying a questionable vigour which most of us lost with our virginities.
Three songs into the set came, “the first song we ever wrote”: ‘History Book’. Haunting and genuine, the carefully crafted lyrics show off the Stratford boys' deep pool of talent. Unlike many of their pop-folk counterparts, Dry the River have far more lurking beneath the surface than catchy choruses and novel instrument formations.
Peter's vocals: an endearing, mesmerising wailing, enchanted the fit-to-bursting Empire, rendering the deep “shushes” whispering through the crowd superfluous. We were all wide eyes and open ears...
Our reward came when a usually hefty ‘Weights and Measures’ was treated to a stripped down vocal performance, Peter Liddle sang out to a room packed with silent, love-struck teens; from the line: “I was prepared to love you” the seduction was complete.
The boys finished off with the ethereal, ‘Shaker Hymns’, and delighted fans by descending into the crowds guitars and all. A nostalgic recreation of the campfire acoustic folk gatherings reminisced upon by snobbier folk fans (usually living in decrepit East-end warehouses whilst buying bottled water from Waitrose), but a novelty for a new generation all the same.
The favourites from their debut album, ‘Shallow Bed’ were well received, but a shower of new material would have made things a little more interesting, not to mention the length it would have added to an otherwise prematurely clipped performance.
Despite a similarity in sound (which arguably starts and finishes with both band’s “folky” influences), if Mumford and Sons didn’t exist Dry the River would likely drown in the overflowing gushing from the teenage-faux folk sweethearts. Let's hope for their sake that Mumford and his merry men continue to jingle out closing-time pop ditties for many more albums to come.
Words by Kate O’Sullivan
Photos by Rosie Wadey