Braver Than Fiction have left their stomping ground of Sheffield to play among the sunny environs of Redmire railway station in North Yorkshire. For four years now the WensleyAle festival organisers have invited musicians, beer and gin connoisseurs and rail enthusiasts alike to come together and celebrate over the May bank holiday whilst also raising money for the maintenance and upkeep of the railway line.
With the sun high in the sky over the crowded railway embankment and the beer and gin flowing within the tent, a number of music acts have given over their time freely to support the cause, coming from a variety of genres and backgrounds. It is Sheffield band Braver Than Fiction (lead singer Mel, keyboard player Jason, guitarists Martin, bass player Richard and new kid on the block drummer Aidan) that I have pursued to review though, and so after a rousing morning of folk, rock and crowd-pleasing covers, the dark, loungey swagger of the eclectic band who have drawn comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and many a strong female vocal sensation take to the stage.
Across their close-to-an-hour set, an array of musical styles and indeed time signatures are skilfully rendered with the band’s calling card twisted, gothic, carnival rock output pleasing the audience both inside and out of the main tent. Classic tracks like “Candleblind” which echo as if from an underground drinking den, Jason’s keyboards all languid and darkly seductive whilst Mel’s ever-impressive vocals are restrained and incisive. It takes another old favourite “Mr Jones (Fear of Falling)” to bring more of that bluesy, honey-coated snarl from Mel and Martin’s guitar riffs bring a bluegrass flavour to the track. A personal set highlight is the summery, nostalgic “Love’s Comin’ in” which shows the versatility of the band with a detuned honky tonk style piano underpinning the waves of rare summery optimism from the band.
Newer material from the band is liberally sprinkled throughout including the recent “The Hangman’s Waltz” and a plethora of darker, waltzing macabre numbers which have the audience swaying, whether on their feet, or from the safety of their chairs, having indulged in the festival’s ales and spirits. These tracks are deliciously dark, huge numbers from an as-yet-unwritten horror musical awaiting Tim Burton’s input. It’s clear the band are relishing performing, especially Jason on keyboards who takes a moment out from recreating carnival pipe organs and harpsichords to film the band and audience, still managing all his trills and flourishes one-handed.
We have a slight gear change nearer the end of the set with funky disco number “Sugar Mouth” which sees Richard recreating some Nile Rogers bassnotes whilst Mel embodies 70s Debbie Harry, the gospel-tinged more upbeat “The Rocks of Kingdom Come” and what must surely be the band’s very own Bond theme, the epic “The Gypsy and the Thief” which may not be the typical set-closer, being dark and a little lurid, but it certainly brings the house down and the band give it their all, especially Mel, who belts out the notes like only Shirley Bassey could.
There’s a triumphant response as the band leave and this being a festival, it’s not long before the next act are setting up and audiences have moved on to sample new beers and cocktails, but people are approaching Mel, in awe of the band’s material and their understated talents and group dynamic, with Aidan having given it his all on drums and made a lasting impression too. There’s something marvellously theatrical and engaging about the band that defies explanation, so my advice is to see them for yourselves.
Read my review of their EP “The Fool” here and check out the band on their Facebook, Twitter, soundcloud and website and better yet, get to see them live. Find out more about the WensleyAle festival here.
. Fall For Me
. I Don’t Need My Empathy
. The Hangman’s Waltz
. Mr Jones (Fear of Falling)
. Love’s Comin’ in
. Penny Jar
. Sugar Mouth
. The Rocks of Kingdom Come
. The Gypsy and the Thief